A health trust that posted the private details of 6,574 members of staff on its website has been fined £185,000 by the Information Commissioners Office.
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust inadvertently published workers’ confidential data including their National Insurance number, date of birth, religious belief and sexual orientation in March 2014.
The trust failed to notice the mistake for ten months and then took a further five months to alert affected staff.
The information was volunteered by staff as part of the Trust’s commitment to publish annual equality and diversity metrics on its website.
But the Trust failed to notice that the published spreadsheets also contained hidden data that became visible by simply double-clicking the table. This is how the personal details of individual members of staff were revealed.
Stephen Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: “This trust played fast and loose with the highly sensitive and private information that was entrusted to them. It seems they ignored their duty to put rules in place to protect staff who deliver hospital services to others.”
“Any measures taken to protect this information from reaching the public domain were woefully inadequate or non-existent. The fact that the error went unnoticed for so long beggars belief.”
The ICO’s blog “Now you don’t see it, now you do – the dangers of hidden data” was published in November 2015 alongside new guidance to give practical advice on what to look out for when providing information in different formats.
This is not the first time the ICO has fined an organisation for inadvertently publishing hidden data. Torbay NHS Trust (July 2012) and Islington Council (August 2013) both received penalties for similar mistakes.
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