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ICO slaps Durham Uni for exposing staff, students' privates

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Durham University leaked the personal details of 177 staff and students in a training manual that turned out to reveal more than how to take out a library book. The university has just been given a slap on the wrist by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and has promised to reform its data protection policies.

In illustrating the internal workings of its systems, Durham Uni unfortunately revealed personal information about its employees and students and posted screenshots of webpages full of information including names, addresses and dates of birth.

Details that should have been fictionalised or anonymised turned out to be the real details of 177 members of staff and present and past students.

The information was online for five months until July 2011, when Durham officials realised their mistake, took the images down and reported themselves to the ICO.

Durham has now committed to ensuring all staff receive appropriate training on data protection.

Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said: “All documents should be checked for personal information before being made available on a website. This case also highlights the importance of organisations having comprehensive data protection training in place for all staff."

A Durham University spokesperson told The Reg: "The manuals were created to provide illustrative training materials to help train staff in the use of specific IT applications and contained screen shots from those applications.

“The university is already implementing enhanced staff awareness and training provision as well as continuing to strengthen its information security policies and procedures." ®

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