Ontario police's Big Data assigns secret guilt to people looking for jobs, crossing borders

There are no effective legal limits on when and to whom police can disclose unproven charges against you, 911 calls involving mental health incidents, and similar sensitive and prejudicial information; people have been denied employment, been turned back at the US border and suffered many other harms because Ontario cops send this stuff far and wide.

Included in the information police share are the charges laid against a wife in order to coerce her to testify against her husband; she agreed and the charges were dropped, but they were still disclosed to an employer and ended her career.

The Toronto Star has spoken to hundreds of people whose lives have been compromised in similar ways. Without legislation limiting these disclosures, there's no way for the Police Chiefs to require forces to stop sharing it, so they've asked for voluntary measures to limit access to the information.

Included in the database are charges that were dropped, meaning that the subjects of these allegations have an arrest record saying they did something bad, but no criminal record saying they were found innocent. It's Kafka meets McCarthy by way of Orwell.

Police chiefs call for presumed innocence in background checks [Robert Cribb/Toronto Star]

(Thanks, Yannick!)

(Image: Metro Toronto Police Logo, Mystery Eyeball, Florida Fish and Wildlife, CC-BY)

Notable Replies

  1. I wonder how long it will be before we get to the point with background checks where a background check is itself recorded in the background info.

    We're already there with credit checks.

    When the results of the background check indicate that the person in question has had 327 background checks run on them, what petty tyrant wouldn't consider that derogatory?

  2. For a while now we've had prosecutors who slander defendants in the press, pre-trial, and police who think they only need to collect and hand over incriminating evidence, as opposed to all of it. Now the heavy-handed thugs have found a new, passive-aggressive way of bullying their victims.

    Don't worry, if you've done nothing wrong then... your still screwed at their whim.

  3. I put up a blurb about this last month http://bbs.boingboing.net/t/london-polices-secret-domestic-extremist-list-includes-people-who-sketch-protests/34671/8?u=nadreck

    The worst part is that the police databases are such a mess that there actually is no way to scrub anything out of them even if they wanted to. A garbled, incorrect version of some court case you were peripherally involved in might pop up on a Mac II S hypercard deck 20 years later at some little village cop shop and then that's it for your career. If you're an axe murderer who's served their sentence you can get a full pardon and erasure of records as per the legislation but a rumour of naughtiness is forever.

  4. Well, yes, it's normal, in all sorts of jobs. And being commisioned in the military (at least in the US) requires that you have passed a deeper background check so you can get a Secret clearance.

    But isn't the point of the article Cory posted that police agencies are releasing information they shouldn't.

    It's not getting the background check that would make someone sweat, it's the not knowing what sort of crap is on it that shouldn't be.

  5. Last week I was banned from Canada. Work takes me to Buffalo sometimes, and normally if I was in Buffalo I'd want to continue on to Toronto, a town I like,
    but I havent had a passport in 20 years, and the passport office couldn't find my records quickly enough to issue one. So I went to the bridge, showed my license and passport application, and asked if I could come in or should go back. They took me inside and asked me questions that got more hostile and instrusive, and ended up effectively banning me from the country. I've never been convicted of a crime, but have been accused a time or 3. Apparently there is some wrong data in their system that shows I have a criminal history. I'm wondering if I have a defamation claim against somebody.

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