Police may be accessing medical data of individuals without a warrant, a new inquiry has found. The inquiry, conducted by the United Kingdom’s Parliament Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, discovered that pharmacies share medical data with police forces likely without a warrant and in circumstances which are difficult to challenge.
The inquiry discovered that undercover drug addiction patrols were sent to physicians and pharmacies to obtain information about individuals and policies set in place about sharing individual data with police officers. These policies were often not made clear to patients and the pharmacies were not obtaining consent from patients before sharing their data.
The inquiry also revealed that factors such as patient confidentiality, data protection, and security protocols were not always taken into consideration when police officers requested the medical records of individuals.
The inquiry’s findings are disconcerting and potentially concerning for patients’ right to privacy. It suggests that those who need medical care and that are possibly vulnerable may not be protected as police officers can potentially access their data without permission.
Now more than ever, with law enforcement increasingly using technology to approach crime-solving, it is important to ensure that data protection laws are adhered to. It is especially concerning when it comes to accessing medical records without consent.
The inquiry has suggested that clear and legally binding frameworks are necessary to ensure that patient data is only shared legally and with the patient’s consent. This includes creating stronger control measures around data protection and security protocols as well as ensuring that any requests by police officers for patient data are conducted in a way that can be challenged if necessary. Additionally, it is important that medical professionals and pharmacies not feel as though they are required to share patient medical data with police without a warrant.
It is the responsibility of law enforcement officers and authorities to ensure that individuals’ data is protected and accessed properly. The inquiry’s findings suggest that there is still more work to be done to ensure data protection as authorities use law enforcement and technology-based approaches to crime-solving.