Data pro­tec­tion rules bro­ken twice at coun­cil

Macclesfield Express - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART GREER

ACCTV op­er­a­tor breached data pro­tec­tion pro­to­cols to watch a col­league’s wed­ding via work cam­eras, it has been re­vealed.

The breach – which re­sulted in ‘man­age­ment in­struc­tion’ – was one of two at the lo­cal au­thor­ity be­tween April 2011 and April 2014.

Na­tion­ally, there were more than 4,000 breaches by coun­cil work­ers, a rate of al­most four ev­ery day.

The fig­ures were ob­tained us­ing the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act for a study by pri­vacy cam­paign group Big Brother Watch.

The other in­ci­dent of a data breach at Cheshire East was when a worker ac­cessed per­sonal in­for­ma­tion for which she or he was given a ‘writ­ten warn­ing’.

Shock­ing find­ings at other coun­cils in­cluded a so­cial worker at Lewisham coun­cil who left chil­dren’s con­fi­den­tial files with in­for­ma­tion linked to sex of­fend­ers on a train.

Big Brother Watch is call­ing for prison sen­tences for the most se­ri­ous breaches af­ter find­ing just one of the litany of 4,236 ended in dis­ci­plinary ac­tion.

Sen­si­tive or con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion was com­pro­mised in 260 of the cases, while breaches in­volved per­sonal data linked to chil­dren on 658 oc­ca­sions.

Di­rec­tor Emma Carr said: “For so many chil­dren and young peo­ple to have had their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion com­pro­mised is deeply dis­turb­ing.

“With only a tiny frac- tion of staff be­ing dis­ci­plined or dis­missed, this raises the ques­tion of how se­ri­ously lo­cal coun­cils take pro­tect­ing the pri­vacy of the public.”

A spokesman for the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment As­so­ci­a­tion said: “Coun­cils take data pro­tec­tion ex­tremely se­ri­ously and staff are given on­go­ing train­ing in han­dling con­fi­den­tial data. Given the huge vol­ume of data coun­cils han­dle, breaches are pro­por­tion­ately rare.

“When they do oc­cur, ro­bust in­ves­ti­ga­tions and re­views are im­me­di­ately un­der­taken to en­sure pro­cesses are tight­ened.”

A spokesman from Cheshire East Coun­cil said: “The re­port from Big Brother Watch refers to an in­ci­dent in which an em­ployee of Cheshire East Coun­cil, whilst on duty, used a CCTV cam­era to ob­serve a work col­league’s wed­ding.

“The in­ci­dent took place in June 2011 and the em­ployee was rep­ri­manded for a breach of data pro­tec­tion pro­to­cols and the ICO con­cluded that no fur­ther ac­tion by the coun­cil was re­quired.”

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