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Theft of briefcase results in Data Protection Act (DPA) breach

The ICO confirmed the DPA breach after verifying that sensitive personal data was stolen along with a briefcase from a Leicestershire County Council social worker’s home.

The briefcase, which was stolen in a burglary in May 2011, contained the sensitive personal data of 18 individuals, outlining ‘details of neglect and requested the removal of the children from their parents’ care’.

Although the line manager, that authorised the social worker to take the files home, had been trained in data protection policies and procuedures, the social worker had not.

The authority had a policy in place but this didn’t relate to the handling of paper documents while working from home.

Stephen Eckersley, the ICO’s Head of Enforcement said:

“Local authorities must recognise that social workers are handling some of the most sensitive information available. The fact that this information often relates to vulnerable young children means it is all the more important for these organisations to provide staff with adequate training and guidance on how to keep this information secure.

“While Leicestershire County Council already recognised the risks associated with home working and had produced guidance for their staff, the guidance did not explain how papers containing personal information should be kept secure.

“We are pleased that the Council have now committed to taking action to protect the personal information they handle and will extend its training programme to cover all staff who are regularly required to take this information outside of the office.”

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