Fears over “lax” council data security

Sensitive personal information has been lost or misused by councils on thousands of occasions, according to a study by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The study found that local authorities recorded 4,236 data breaches over a three-year period from April 2011.

Emma Carr, Big Brother Watch director, said: “Despite local councils being trusted with increasing amounts of our personal data this report highlights that they are simply not able to say it is safe with them.

A number of examples show shockingly lax attitudes to protecting confidential information. For so many children and young people to have had their personal information compromised is deeply disturbing.”

The report, based on responses to Freedom of Information requests sent to local authorities throughout the UK, shows that, amongst other things, “some 197 mobile phones, computers, tablets and USBs were lost or stolen” and “data was lost or stolen on 401 occasions, with 628 instances of incorrect or inappropriate information being shared on emails, letters and faxes”.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association has said that, councils take data protections “extremely seriously” and staff are given training in handling confidential data.

He also said that, “given the huge volume of data that councils handle”, breaches are “proportionately rare”.

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