Scottish Borders Council employed an outside company to digitise their employee records but when the pension records of several hundred ex-employees were found in recycling bins the Information Commission’s Office began an investigation for a breach of the Data Protection Act.
Following the investigation the Information Commissioner has fined the Council £250,000 for not seeking appropriate guarantees on how the personal data would be kept secured and dealt with.
It is believed more than 600 files were deposited at the recycle bins, containing confidential information and, in a significant number of cases, salary and bank account details. The files were spotted by a member of the public who called police, prompting the recovery of 676 files. A further 172 files deposited on the same day but at a different paper recycling bank are thought to have been destroyed in the recycling process.
Ken Macdonald, ICO Assistant Commissioner for Scotland, said:
“This is a classic case of an organisation taking its eye off the ball when it came to outsourcing. When the Council decided to contract out the digitising of these records, they handed large volumes of confidential information to an outside company without performing sufficient checks on how securely the information would be kept, and without even putting a contract in place.
“It is only good fortune that these records were found by someone sensible enough to call the police. It is easy to imagine other circumstances where this information could have exposed people to identity fraud and possible financial loss through no fault of their own.
“If one positive can come out of this, it is that other organisations realise the importance of properly managing third parties who process personal data. The Data Protection Act is very clear where the responsibility for the security of that information remains, and what penalties await those who do not comply with the law.”
Who else has the information commissioner caught this year? Find out here.