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"General snooping" likely reason gardaí looked up model 80 times --- Data Commissioner

An audit of the force’s data system found that the records of several high-profile people had been accessed inappropriately.

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DATA PROTECTION COMMISSIONER Billy Hawkes says he believes ‘idle curiousity’ and ‘general snooping’ were the main reasons behind members of the gardaí looking up well-known people on the force’s PULSE system.

According to an audit of An Garda Siochána’s data protection systems, published yesterday — entries relating to one person, who worked in the modelling industry, were looked up over 80 times.

Another celebrity had their details looked up 50 times, while four other well-known people whose names were chosen as part of the data audit also had their records inappropriately accessed.

According to the Data Commissioner’s report:

Two high-profile persons whose details were recorded on PULSE in relation to minor offences or incidents where they were victims or witnesses had their records accessed over 80 and 50 times respectively by members of AGS. A review of these accesses by the Team led to the identification of the same Gardaí in several instances as having accessed both records.

The Team also checked the PULSE records of three high profile media personalities and also a well known inter-county GAA player. The number of Pulse accesses returned appeared to bear no relation to the valid entries relating to these individuals in connection with official police business and again, there was commonality in the members who had looked up these individuals.

The audit, which covers the period 2011 to October 2013, is available to view in full on the Garda website.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Marian Finucane programme this morning, Billy Hawkes said that as far as his team were concerned “we assume it was just general snooping and just curiousity”.

But he noted that “you should have an expectation when you report some minor thing to An Garda Síochána that that won’t happen”.

“There were other more sinister cases where data was being leaked out of An Garda Síochána to people like private investigators,” Hawkes said, noting:

That is something which the [Garda] Commissioner was particularly concerned about.

Hawkes said the Garda Commissioner had taken steps to ensure that when a person gives information to members of the force, “it will only be dealt with by the gardaí who need to investigate the thing, it won’t be looked up out of idle curiosity, and above all it will not be disclosed to people outside in a way that could be used to damage us”.

A number of measures have been brought in by the force to govern the use of PULSE, after concerns about inappropriate access were first raised by the Data Commissioner in his 2012 annual report. They include a revised warning notice and a system of random audits conducted by the Garda Professional Standards Unit.

According to a statement yesterday from Commissioner Callinan, “a number of Garda members have been subject to discipline for inappropriate access to Pulse within the period of the audit process”.

Read: The Tánaiste thinks the Garda Commissioner should withdraw ‘disgusting’ remark

Read: ‘We’ve been over this ground’: Kenny won’t say if Callinan should apologise to whistleblowers

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