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Data Protection Act breached by Local Authority

The ICO yesterday announced that New Forest District Council has breached the Data Protection Act after it published the personal information of others; in this case, planning applicants who had applied via the local authority website.

A resident in the New Forest District Council first complained to the ICO in 2008, after a request to the Council to remove personal data from an application pre-publication on the website went unnoticed. The initial request was adhered to, but other residents’ information was finding its way online over the next few months. Initially, improvements were made and monitoring processes were installed at the Council. However, The ICO contacted the Council in July 2010 after it emerged personal data was being published online again.

Staff were interviewed and systems examined; it was confirmed that the Council was taking the correct measures to ensure risks to personal data were reduced, and the Council’s Chief Executive, David Yates, has announced his personal commitment to ensure maximum compliance with the Data Protection Act. In response, Sally-Anne Pool of the ICO has stated:

“The ICO welcomes the measures introduced by New Forest District Council to tackle this problem. While we appreciate it is difficult for any organisation to give a 100% guarantee that they will comply with the Act, we expect authorities to put the most effective data protection measures in place and to ensure they are upheld.
“We will be monitoring other local authorities to scope compliance in this area on a national level. Any council found to have an unacceptable error rate may be subject to regulatory action.”

Comment
Absolute Data works with many organisations to reduce or eliminate the risk to the personal information that they hold about individuals. The “softer side” of privacy risk management such as staff training and having documented procedures is often overlooked and under-funded in organisations and an area where we can have a big impact for a modest investment.  For further information, please contact us now on info@absolute-data.co.uk.