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Local councils fined over £300,000 for losing personal data

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has criticised local government’s attitude towards protecting personal data, after four local councils were issued civil monetary penalties. Leeds City Council was served a monetary penalty of £95,000, Plymouth City Council £60,000 and Devon County Council £90,000 after separate incidents saw details of child care cases sent to the wrong recipients, while the London Borough of Lewisham was issued a penalty of £70,000 after social work papers were left on a train. The penalties mean that nineteen local councils have now received monetary penalties for breaching the Data Protection Act, totalling £1,885,000.

 

Leeds City Council

 

The case in Leeds saw sensitive personal details about a child in care sent to the wrong person, revealing details of a criminal offence, school attendance and information about the child’s relationship with their mother. When sending internal mail, the council re-use envelopes that have been used for external mail. But in this case the external address wasn’t crossed out, and so the sensitive file was posted to someone who had nothing to do with this case.

 

Plymouth City Council

 

The breach at Plymouth City Council followed a similar pattern, with information passed to the wrong recipient including highly sensitive personal information about two parents and four children, notably allegations of child neglect relating to ongoing care proceedings. The breach occurred when two reports about separate child neglect cases were sent to the same shared printer. Three pages from the first report were mistakenly collected with the papers from the second case, and so were handed to the wrong family.

 

Devon County Council

 

In Devon, a social worker used a previous case as a template for an adoption panel report they were writing, but a copy of the old report was sent out instead of the new one. The mistake revealed personal data of 22 people, including details of alleged criminal offences and mental and physical health.

 

London Borough of Lewisham

 

In Lewisham, a social worker left sensitive documents in a plastic shopping bag on a train, after taking them home to work on. The files, which were later recovered from the rail company’s lost property office, included GP and police reports and allegations of sexual abuse and neglect. Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “We are fast approaching two million pounds worth of monetary penalties issued to UK councils for breaching the Data Protection Act, with nineteen councils failing to have the most straightforward of procedures in place.

 

“It would be far too easy to consider these breaches as simple human error. The reality is that they are caused by councils treating sensitive personal data in the same routine way they would deal with more general correspondence. Far too often in these cases, the councils do not appear to have acknowledged that the data they are handling is about real people, and often the more vulnerable members of society.

 

“The distress that these incidents would have caused to the people involved is obvious. The penalties we have issued will be of little solace to them, but we do hope it will stop other people having to endure similar distress by sending out a clear message that this type of approach to personal data will not be tolerated.

 

“There is clearly an underlying problem with data protection in local government and we will be meeting with stakeholders from across the sector to discuss how we can support them in addressing these problems.”

 

The ICO is pressing the Ministry of Justice for stronger powers to audit local councils’ data protection compliance, if necessary without consent. The same powers are sought for NHS bodies across the UK following a series of data protection breaches in the health sector.

 

Link; http://www.ccrmagazine.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8240&Itemid=37


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The sad part is that we are the one's paying the fines and no one else! Fines are an ineffective tool. Maybe if the CEO or Managing Director was dismissed, it would be more effective!

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