Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2007
Q380 Patrick Mercer: After a crime
has been committed and the Police want evidence from your camera
systems, how do they go about retrieving data from TfL sources?
Mr Burton: I have a small group
of individuals working for me. The Police fill in the appropriate
data protection form to identify why they want the data and we
will do our best to give them the appropriate information. We
do that in a transparent way and we have fairly carefully structured
guidelines for those staff on when it is appropriate to release
Q381 Patrick Mercer: I appreciate
there may not be an exact answer to this but on average how long
does that process take?
Mr Burton: It will take a couple
of days at most. Essentially we work with the Police very closely
and we will prioritise cases. Obviously the more serious the case
the more resources we will put on it, and we will do our best
to turn it around in an appropriate timescale.
Q382 Patrick Mercer: You will be
aware that there is a debate going on about whether the public
should or should not in certain circumstances have access to the
data that you have gathered. What is your view on that? If a crime
has been committed and the public needs to have access to your
data, how far has the debate gone?
Mr Burton: Obviously there is
a debate going on around that. There are currently a number of
FOI applications that people have put in and we will treat them
on a case-by-case basis. At the moment we have no plans to make
that data available as a matter of course and I think we would
want to work very closely with the Police agencies on that. By
their very nature most of those requests that come from the Police
are active investigations so there are sub judice issues of course
Q383 Patrick Mercer: Can you give
me a feel for what the volume of those requests is?
Mr Burton: At the moment we get
just over 300-350 requests for specific pieces of data, on the
Oyster system for example.
Q384 Patrick Mercer: How often?
Mr Burton: Per month. However
you have to contextualise that. We are running three and a half
billion journeys a year, so in comparative terms it is a fairly
Q385 Ms Buck: Can I ask you a bit
more about the gauging of public opinion because clearly there
is out there some degree of concern about surveillance of customers
and users of all kinds of services. Do you have any sense at all
of the extent to which users worry about their privacy and how
would you research it?
Mr Burton: We have done a number
of market research exercises of both customers and the community
at large because they are two different groups in many ways. A
particular exercise we did a year or two ago was asking people
what we could do to the network to make them feel safer. As I
say, I think the second item that was identified was putting more
CCTV on to the system. We do consult on a regular basis on how
we use the system.
Q386 Ms Buck: But do you ever ask
them the flip-side question, the extent to which people feel that
even making a simple journey now puts them under surveillance?
Is that angle of it addressed by anything that you research?
Mr Burton: We have not asked them
recently on that. There is a piece of research we are doing at
the moment for which I do not have the results available, in fact
it has only just been done. Our information access team, who run
our overall data protection work, have asked members of the public
how they feel about accessing our data and how they feel about
being observed. I think those results will be out in the next
few months, but the previous stuff we have done, as I say, does
show that the public do feel comforted by a feeling of being watched
on the network. I think it might be different if you ask people
outside of what they perceive to be a controlled environment,
but I think the public very much see the public transit system
as something we should manage on their behalf.
Ms Buck: Of course they do but if you
do not ask them you are not going to know where that balance is
struck. Perhaps we could ask for the results of that survey to
be shared with us.
Q387 Chairman: That would be very
helpful. Could you send that to us?
Mr Burton: We will do.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Davies
has a question on the Oyster scheme. I should declare I have an
Ms Buck: So do I.
David Davies: I think my question was
probably answered by something that the gentleman said. It was
to do with the number of requests that the Police had, so I am
Q388 Chairman: Before I release you
all, I have a question on the practical measures adopted by my
local health authority. When a constituent comes to me and asks
about the length of time it takes for him to get an operation,
for example he wants an earlier date, I would write to my local
health authority and expect to get the information back. They
have now adopted the practice of writing back to me and sending
a consent form for me to send to my constituent in my constituency
to sign and for it to be returned to me and then returned to the
health authority. Do you know what the practice is with different
local health authorities because I would have thought it was implicit
that when a constituent walks in and sees a Member of Parliament
that they have given consent for the MP to write.
Mr Jeavons: The answer is I do
not know what the practice is across local NHS organisations.
I am quite happy to look into that though and provide a note.
Chairman: I do not know what other Members
David Davies: It is good question.
Bob Russell: It sounds like a Leicester
problem. It does not affect me.
Q389 Chairman: I think we are all
nodding in agreement and chuntering and saying this happens to
us, too, so if you could find out that would be very helpful.
It may be an attempt to delay matters so that the operation takes
place before the answer is given, but who knows.
Mr Jeavons: I could not comment.
Chairman: Mr Jeavons, Dr Hickey, Mr Wright
and Mr Burton, thank you very much for your evidence today.