API Witness Personal Identifying Information Policy
Updated: 22 January 2018
We have to be sensitive to the fact that many witnesses do not come forward because they fear ridicule and a diminished reputation in their community, and even serious repercussions for their professional career should they report a sighting. Others are simply highly protective of their privacy, and do not wish to have information about themselves revealed to the public. API will take every reasonable step to preserve witness anonymity and privacy.
Defining PII and the API Policy
Personal Identifying Information (PII) is any information that could be used to identify or help identify a person’s name, age, address, place of business, social media or e-mail accounts, telephone number(s), or friends and family members.
API’s firm policy is to never release PII of any witness who has requested anonymity, and to only release PII from non-anonymous witnesses after reviewing the information to be released with the witness, and then only if necessary to advance the investigation.
It is possible that sharing your case file with another reputable investigating organization may result in a more thorough field investigation. If you do not check the box in the report form permitting us to do so, we will not share it unless we contact you first for your permission. You have every right to refuse this permission.
Any organization with whom API shares witness contact information must have a written agreement with us stating their clear intention to implement a strict privacy and investigatory ethics policy.
The first step in protecting witness PII is to only collect only the essential information required to conduct the investigation. Any non-essential information should be destroyed when the case if closed, if not earlier.
The second step is to secure the information we do collect, to make sure that public access is not available. This may include obscuring details in a report, or assigning pseudonyms to witnesses or place names. Even though we may know the exact location of a sighting, it may be necessary to reduce the precision of the location.
The third step is to make sure that no PII appears in any of our public materials, including our podcast, website, any public talks or interviews, and of course case reports.
If the Witness Goes Public
In the unlikely event that a witness takes their story to the media, our policy will not change. We will continue to hold the information we have on that witness private.
Witness Audio on the API Case Files Podcast
If you have listened to API Case Files, you may note that we often play clips of witness interviews. This is always done with permission. If you do not permit us to use your voice on the podcast, it will have no effect on the investigation.