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Another Council breaches the Data Protection Act

Confidential personal information has been disposed of in a skip by Wolverhampton City Council, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has revealed.

The breach occurred in October 2010, after records including medical, employment and personal data was fly-tipped into a then-stolen skip at a local leisure centre. A local newspaper discovered this information, and reported on it.

Although the Council had a written contract with a waste management company ensuring the secure disposal of personal data, it was the Council itself that had failed to determine the personal and confidential nature of the information disposed of.

Director of Operations at the ICO, Simon Entwisle, said:
“This breach demonstrates how important it is that staff who handle personal data have a good understanding of the need to keep it safe at all times – especially when it is being disposed of. An organisation’s responsibility to keep information secure does not end when it is taken out of the building.
“The thought of people’s personal details being dumped on the street is worrying enough, not to mention what could have happened if it had fallen into the wrong hands. I am pleased that the council has taken the necessary steps to ensure that this type of breach does not happen again.”

Comment
An undertaking has been signed by the Coucil to ensure that staff are made aware of the Council’s policies on data protection and waste management, and are appropriately trained in how to follow them. The council will also ensure that compliance with the policies is appropriately and regularly monitored. Absolute Data specialises in helping such organisations review their strategies in these areas, and thus improve data management systems. Absolute Data also works with many organisations in order 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 at info@absolute-data.co.uk.