Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380 - 389)



  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 the information.

  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 as well.

  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 small number.

  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 Oyster card.

  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 content.

  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 have found.

  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.

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