Feeds

Been smacked by the ICO? Reveal your internal probes

Template FOI: Right, who left the laptop in the pub?

High performance access to file storage

If public authorities are subject to enforcement action by the Information Commissioner (eg, monetary penalty notice, undertaking, audit, enforcement notice etc), they should be prepared for internal reports into why the action was taken to become the target for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

This is the outcome of a recent Decision Notice involving the London Borough of Ealing. Implicitly, the comissioner is signalling that he thinks such reports and investigations should be published where practicable.

In February 2011, Ealing Council reported a theft of two laptops containing the details of around 1,700 individuals were stolen from an employee’s home (including sensitive personal data). Almost 1,000 of the individuals were clients of Ealing Council and both laptops were password protected but unencrypted – despite this being of Council policy. The ICO served Ealing Council with a Monetary Penalty Notice of £80,000.

On 30 May 2011, the Council received a FOI request for “... a copy of the report into the loss of the unencrypted laptop which resulted in an £80,000 fine from the ICO”. The council directed the applicant to the Monetary Penalty Notice published on the ICO’s website.

The requester wrote back explaining that it was the council’s own internal report into the matter that was being sought. The council refused to provide the requested information stating that the information was being withheld under the ‘prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs’ exemption (namely section 36(2)(b) of the FOIA) and that the public interest was in favour of non-disclosure. This position was upheld on internal review.

The ICO decided that the council had correctly applied the ‘prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs’ exemption but that it wrongly concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosure. The two main reasons for this decision were as follows:

  • Disclosure “would also contribute to public understanding of the issues documented in the publically available Monetary Penalty Notice”.
  • “Disclosure would demonstrate to the public that the council has taken robust steps to address the security implications of the incident and that measures have been put in place to ensure that there is not a recurrence. This would improve public confidence in the workings of the council”.

Now I am suggesting to you that these two arguments employed by the ICO could apply to almost any enforcement action by his office. So if your employer is a public authority and subject to enforcement action under the Data Protection Act, then expect FOI requests which will probably lead to the publication of your internal investigations into the problem.

Download the Decision Notice (PDF).

This story originally appeared at HAWKTALK, the blog of Amberhawk Training Ltd.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.