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A trade body has lost a laptop computer containing the personal details of 37,000 people and information on 1,900 people's driving convictions. The information was kept on an unencrypted laptop which was stolen from a locked vehicle.

Repair Management Services of Blackburn has promised the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that it will improve its data security and that it will encrypt laptops or any other machines which carry personal data no later than next March.

Repair Management Services, which used to be known as MVRA, is a trade association representing car repair companies.

A laptop containing personal details on 36,800 people and information about 1,900 driving convictions was left in a car in a car park. The car was broken into and the laptop, which was protected by a password but not encryption, was stolen.

"Personal information is valuable," said Sally-anne Poole, head of enforcement and investigations at the ICO. “In this case, it also involved the details of criminal convictions which, if accessed, could potentially result in distress being caused to the individuals concerned."

The trade body has made a written undertaking to the ICO committing it to encrypting machines and to training staff in its information policies and procedures to try to ensure that such an incident is not repeated.

"The data controller did not ensure sufficient security measures were in place to prevent the unauthorised or unlawful processing of the data in question," said the ICO in the undertaking. "In particular the computer held data which was not protected by a minimum standard of encryption. The Commissioner has taken into account the fact that a proportion of the personal data in question related to criminal convictions and could therefore potentially result in distress being caused to the individuals concerned."

Because of the body's undertaking the Information Commissioner has decided not to serve an Enforcement Notice on it under the Data Protection Act in relation to a breach of the Act. It says that organisations should take "appropriate technical and organisational security measures" to prevent the leaking of personal data.

"I welcome the steps being taken by Repair Management Services Ltd and urge all organisations to implement the appropriate safeguards and training to prevent personal information falling into the wrong hands," said Poole.

See: The undertaking (2-page/23KB PDF)

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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