Latest Public Sector News

18.12.12

ICO calls for greater powers to protect sensitive data

Local government has been criticised for its attitude towards protecting personal data. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has penalised four different local councils for breaching the Data Protection Act.

This brings the total number of councils which have breached the Act to 19, at a total cost of £1,885,000.

Leeds City Council has been issued a civil monetary penalty of £95,000 for sending sensitive personal details about a child in care to the wrong person. Plymouth City Council was charged £60,000 for sending information to the wrong recipient and Devon City Council £90,000 for revealing the personal data of 22 people.

The London Borough of Lewisham has been penalised £70,000 after social work papers were left on a train.

The ICO is calling for stronger powers to audit local councils’ data protection compliance, if necessary without consent.

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.”

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