The PR Guru

November 24, 2010

County Council fined for releasing confidential information and breaching Data Protection Act

Two companies have been fined for releasing information that should have been kept private.

Hertfordshire County Council have apparently faxed details of a child sex abuse case to a member of the public and are to be fined £100,000 by the Information Commissioner for breaching the Data Protection Act.

The first misdirected fax was meant for a barristers’ chambers but was sent instead to a member of the public.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said, “These first monetary penalties send a strong message to all organisations handling personal information – get it wrong and you do substantial harm to individuals and the reputation of your business.”

The other company is Sheffield-based A4e, which was fined £60,000 for losing an unencrypted laptop with the details of thousands of people.

The A4e data breach also occurred in June, after the company, which provides information on employment, issued an unencrypted laptop to an employee so they could work at home.

The computer contained personal information relating to 24,000 people who had used community legal advice centres in Hull and Leicester.

It was later stolen from the employee’s house and an unsuccessful attempt to access the data was made shortly afterwards.

Personal details recorded on the system included full names, dates of birth, postcodes, employment status, income level, information about alleged criminal activity and whether an individual had been a victim of violence.

The commissioner ruled that A4e did not take reasonable steps to avoid the loss of the data when it issued the employee with an unencrypted laptop, despite knowing the amount and type of data that would be on it.

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