Audit, Inspection and Safety

13.10.17

Information of 1,400 vulnerable people spilled online by council

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has launched an investigation after mistakenly publishing the details of 1,400 vulnerable people online.

The data was published as part of the council’s practice of disclosing all spending above £100. However, the identities of carers, foster carers and disabled people under the authority’s remit should have been protected.

Initially, WSCC reassured the public that only names had been released online, but now it has confessed that other details could have been found by cross-referencing the information available.

It took the council 29 hours to remove the information, after being notified of the problem in late September, but the details have been available online for seven years.

“Although the spreadsheet contained transaction numbers and payment amounts, the only personal details recorded were names,” the council stated. “We would like to reassure residents that the spreadsheet did not contain any sensitive personal data which would put individuals at risk, in the event that identification through data matching with alternative sources was carried out.

“We accept that persons seeking to identify individuals could do so in some cases by making additional checks through other data sources. It is for that reason we removed the data.”

The problem has been reported to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has launched an investigation.

The council announced it would conduct its own investigation into the issue, saying: “As a local authority, we are required to publish all expenditure data.

“Our investigation is continuing and we will be carrying out further analysis of the data during this time closely following the guidance issued by the ICO.”

An ICO spokesperson told PSE: “We’re aware of an incident involving West Sussex County Council and are making enquiries.”

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