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Public sector fined more for data breaches than private

The private sector accounts for over a third of reported data breaches but only 1% of the fines, a Freedom of Information request demonstrates.

Data from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) showed that the public sector were issued five fines, totalling £790,000, whilst only one private sector company was fined, £1,000.

The release covered self-reported personal data security breaches between 22 March 2011 and 17 February 2012. Over this period the ICO said 730 events had been flagged up as being potentially liable to a penalty or other action.

The private sector reported 263 cases, while 467 were reported by government and other public sector bodies. These include information mistakenly sent via email, to the wrong address, theft or loss of data and hardware or material disposed of improperly.

An ICO spokesperson said: “The course we choose will always depend on the circumstances of the individual case.”

The data was obtained by satellite system maker ViaSatUK, whose CEOChrisMcIntosh said: “The ICO is definitely making a welcome effort to use its stick to enforce the law. However, since it can only act against self-reported breaches undoubtedly we are not seeing the full picture. While the ICO has shown great progress in ensuring the public sector regains control over data security practices, the private sector still has a relatively free rein. As the public increasingly trusts the private sector with its information we need to ensure this information is managed responsibly, especially as the private sector reported the most thefts of data or hardware in the past year. Nobody wants to deal with the consequences of further breaches like Sony’s loss of 77 million PlayStation Network customer account records.”

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