Feeds

Councils emailed vulnerable people's data to strangers

ICO fines Worcestershire and North Somerset for breaches

The essential guide to IT transformation

Two local authorities have been hit by financial penalties from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after sending highly sensitive personal information to the wrong recipients.

The penalties have been imposed on North Somerset council and Worcestershire county council as the ICO is pressing for stronger powers to audit data protection compliance across local government and the NHS.

Worcestershire has received an £80,000 fine for an incident in March 2011 in which a member of staff emailed highly sensitive personal information about a large number of vulnerable people to 23 unintended recipients. The error occurred when the employee clicked on an additional contact list before sending the email, which had only been intended for internal use.

Enquiries by the ICO found that the council had failed to take appropriate measures to guard against the unauthorised processing of personal data, such as providing employees with appropriate training and clearly distinguishing between internal and external email distribution lists. It also failed to properly consider an alternative means of handling the information, such as holding it in a secure system that could only be accessed by members of staff who needed to see it.

On this occasion all of the unintended recipients worked for registered organisations used to operating within the council's protocols about handling sensitive data, and the council employee immediately realised their error and attempted to contact all of the unintended recipients to ensure that the information was deleted.

A fine of £60,000 was imposed on North Somerset for a series of incidents in November and December 2010 in which a council employee sent five emails, two of which contained highly sensitive and confidential information about a child's serious case review, to the wrong NHS employee.

Although the council had policies and procedures in place, it had failed to ensure that relevant staff received appropriate data protection training. The ICO has recommended that the council adopts a more secure means to send information electronically, including encryption and ensuring that managers sign off email distribution lists.

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said: "It is of great concern that this sort of information was simply sent to the wrong recipients by staff at two separate councils. It was fortunate that in both cases at least the email recipients worked in a similar sector and so were used to handling sensitive information. This mitigating factor has been taken into account in assessing the amount of the penalties.

"There is too much of this sort of thing going on across local government. People who handle highly sensitive personal information need to understand the real weight of responsibility that comes with keeping it secure."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.