The Nursing and Midwifery Council lost three DVDs related to a nurse’s misconduct hearing, which contained confidential personal information and evidence from two vulnerable children.
In October 2011 the DVDs, containing confidential information, was sent to a misconduct hearing via a courier and when the package arrived at the hearing the DVDs were missing and have never found
After an investigation by the ICO it was found the information was not encrypted.
David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, said:
It would be nice to think that data breaches of this type are rare, but we’re seeing incidents of personal data being mishandled again and again. While many organisations are aware of the need to keep sensitive paper records secure, they forget that personal data comes in many forms, including audio and video images, all of which must be adequately protected.
I would urge organisations to take the time today to check their policy on how personal information is handled. Is the policy robust? Does it cover audio and video files containing personal information? And is it being followed in every case?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the organisation risks a data breach that damages public trust and a possible weighty monetary penalty.
The council had been couriering evidence relating to a ‘fitness to practise’ case to the hearing venue. When the packages were received the discs were not present, though the packages showed no signs of tampering. Following the security breach the council carried out extensive searches to find the DVDs, but they’ve never been recovered.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s underlying failure to ensure these discs were encrypted placed sensitive personal information at unnecessary risk. No policy appeared to exist on how the discs should be handled, and so no thought was given as to whether they should be encrypted before being couriered. Had that simple step been taken, the information would have remained secure and we would not have had to issue this penalty.