Feeds

ICO smacks Welsh council with record £130k fine

Vulnerable child's data sent to same stranger who received the last breach...

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Data privacy watchdogs have fined Powys County Council £130,000, the highest fine the ICO has ever levied, for failing to protect the personal data of vulnerable young people.

The Information Commissioner’s Office got out the big stick to punish the Welsh council after it sent details of a child protection case to the wrong recipient, as a statement by the ICO explains.

Two separate reports about child protection cases were sent to the same shared printer. It is thought that two pages from one report were then mistakenly collected with the papers from another case and were sent out without being checked. The recipient mistakenly received the two pages of the report and knew the identities of the parent and child whose personal details were included in the papers. The recipient made a complaint to the council and a further complaint was also submitted by the recipient’s mother via her MP.

In a horrible twist, the serious privacy breach follows a similar but less serious incident in June last year, when a social worker sent information relating to a vulnerable child to the same recipient. The ICO also made it clear that the recipient knew the parent/s and the child/s named in the reports in both instances.

Powys was advised to introduce mandatory training and to tighten up its security measures following the first incident. Its failure to apply this properly has resulted in the whopper fine, which will ultimately come out of the pockets of local council tax-payers. The council has also been served with an enforcement notice.

The penalty is the highest that the ICO has served since it received the power in April 2010. Most but not all of these fines have been levied against local authorities, who seem particularly lax about data security. The ICO also fined ACS:Law, the one-man law firm which controversially harried alleged file-sharers, over a security breach arising from a hack attack.

Assistant Commissioner for Wales Anne Jones said: “This is the third UK council in as many weeks to receive a monetary penalty for disclosing sensitive information about vulnerable people. It’s the most serious case yet and it has attracted a record fine. The distress that this incident would have caused to the individuals involved is obvious and made worse by the fact that the breach could have been prevented if Powys County Council had acted on our original recommendations.

“The ICO has also issued a legal notice ordering the council to take action to improve its data handling. Failure to do so will result in legal action being taken through the courts.

“There is clearly an underlying problem with data protection in social services departments and we will be meeting with stakeholders from across the UK’s local government sector to discuss how we can support them in addressing these problems,” she added.

Christian Toon, European head of information security at information management services Iron Mountain, said the Powys breach high;lighted the need for user education.

“In so many cases these incidents are the result of carelessness and lack of thought rather than any malicious intention," Toon said. "Having said that, the public has the right to expect that information about them is handled with care at all times. For public sector organisations this should mean committing to regular staff training and the creation of robust guidelines that everyone understands and buys into – employees must be encouraged to think before they act.”

“There is no excuse; basic errors such as printing highly sensitive and private child protection reports to a shared printer should not be happening in a modern and accountable government organisation,” he concluded. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.