Today the Information Commissioner has notified five councils after they breached the Data Protection Act.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham said:

“At a time when councils are increasingly working with community partners, when data is shared it is vital that they uphold their legal responsibilities under the Data Protection Act. Failures not only put local residents’ privacy at risk, but also mean that councils could be in line for a sizeable monetary penalty.

“We must also consider the detrimental impact these breaches continue to have on the individuals affected. Disclosing details about someone’s social housing status can be upsetting and damaging for those affected. To help tackle this issue I’ve submitted a business case to the government to ask for them to extend my compulsory audit powers.”

The five data breaches at local authorities all relate to incidents where the councils failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that personal information was kept secure.

  • Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council breached the Data Protection Act on four separate occasions during a two month period last year. The breaches included an incident in May when an individual was mistakenly sent information relating to 29 people who were living in supported housing.
  • In July 2011, an employee of Brighton and Hove Council emailed the details of another member of staff’s personal data to 2,821 council workers. A third party also informed the ICO of a historic breach which occurred in May 2009 when an unencrypted laptop was stolen from the home of a temporary employee. The Council has now committed to ensuring that the personal information they process is secure, including making sure that all portable devices used to store personal data are encrypted.

The other councils affected are

  • Dacorum Borough Council
  • Bolton Council
  • Craven District Council

Additionally an enforcement notice has been issued to Staffordshire County Council over its mishandling of a subject access request.

Two other organisations also had actions taken against them

  • Youth charity Fairbridge
  • Healthcare provider Turning Point