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Council fined £140k for leaking kids' sensitive info

First Scottish organisation fined by information commissioner

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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined Midlothian council £140,000 for disclosing sensitive personal data about children and their carers to the wrong people on five separate occasions.

The commissioner said that the five breaches, which took place between January and June 2011, were all serious.

One of them happened when papers about the status of a foster carer were sent to seven healthcare professionals, none of whom had any reason to see the information.

It took place in January 2011 and did not come to light until March, when the council began an investigation. This did not prevent further similar incidents taking place in May and June, however.

In another case, minutes of a child protection conference were sent in error to the former address of the mother's partner, where they were opened and read by an unauthorised person. The papers also contained personal data about the mother, who made a complaint to her social worker about the incident.

Investigations by the ICO found that all five breaches could have been prevented if the council had put adequate data protection policies, training and checks in place.

Midlothian is the first organisation in Scotland to be fined by the ICO.

In addition to imposing a fine, the information commissioner has ordered Midlothian to improve the security of personal data. The council has said has that it will now check all its records to make sure they are up to date, as well as updating its existing data protection policy to include specific provisions for the handling of personal data by social services staff.

Ken Macdonald, assistant information commissioner for Scotland, said: "The serious upset that these breaches would have caused to the children's families is obvious and it is extremely concerning that this happened five times in as many months.

"I hope this penalty acts as a reminder to all organisations across Scotland and the rest of the UK to ensure that the personal information they handle is kept 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.

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