Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Data Act Was Breached by Every Council; Thousands Put at Risk after Information Blunders

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Data Act Was Breached by Every Council; Thousands Put at Risk after Information Blunders

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW GLOVER

THOUSANDS of people were put at risk of identity fraud and other security problems by North East councils.

A Freedom of Information request revealed every town hall Data Protection Act breach during the last two years.

Lost laptops, missing memory sticks and bundles of post sent to wrong addresses have put delicate private details in the wrong hands.

Northumberland Council lost a memory stick containing pension and payroll details for teachers months after the National Insurance numbers of more than 6,500 pensioners were sent out on a newsletter.

And a file with information about children in care in Newcastle went missing while in possession of another council.

Access codes for homes of vulnerable adults in Newcastle were picked up in the street as a contractor put his laptop case down as he got into his car.

Civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch criticised councils and called for tougher punishments.

The group's director Nick Pickles said: "Councils are trusted with some of our most personal information, and are responsible for dealing the most vulnerable in our society.

"Yet across the North East it's far from clear we can actually trust councils to keep our private information private.

"Mishaps do happen, but it would be wrong to suggest these are isolated incidents. Across the country we see repeated examples of how personal information is lost or accessed for spurious reasons and yet councils continue to collect reams of data about us."

The most serious breaches of the Data Protection Act are referred to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Councils say they have robust procedures in place to protect personal information.

A Newcastle Council spokesman said all leaks were "deeply regrettable".

The children in care file was lost by Buckinghamshire Council but affected youngsters living in Newcastle. And the keycodes for homes of adults receiving home care visits were changed immediately. …

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