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  1. ITV Report

Calls for council workers to be jailed over most serious data breaches

A report released by the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch reveals the scale of data breaches by local councils, including personal information being lost, stolen or used inappropriately.

In a table of the local authorities with the largest number of data breaches between April 2011 and April 2014, Sandwell was 2nd, Telford and Wrekin 3rd and Wolverhampton 9th.

In the past three years the number of data breaches equates to four a day. Credit: PA

In one case a social worker left papers containing classified records about children and information linked to sex offenders on a train.

Another saw a CCTV operator use cameras to watch a colleague's wedding.

In the past three years local authorities recorded a total of 4,236 data breaches - a rate of almost four every day.

We take out responsibilities under the Data Protection Act very seriously and maintain a robust approach to any potential data breach.

"This has been reviewed and approved by the Information Commissioner's Office.

"We believe we report data breaches that others don't. We've never had any fines or regulatory action taken against us by the Information Commissioner."

– Jan Britton, Chief Executive

The vast majority of breaches are very low in terms of the number of people affected, which illustrates how effective our reporting is. We have invested a lot of time into staff training to raise awareness, and this has led to a significant drop in breaches over the last 12 months.

"We treat the data we hold very seriously and will continue to take a tough approach on data breaches, acting quickly if a future breach occurs."

– A Peterborough City Council spokesperson

Key findings of the report (from 2011 - 2014):

  • 401 instances of data loss
  • 628 instances of incorrect or inappropriate data being shared on emails, letters or faxes
  • 5,293 letters sent to the wrong address
  • On 658 occasions, children's information was involved
  • 39 resignations
  • 50 dismissals

Based on the report's findings, Big Brother Watch have proposed a number of policy recommendations which would prevent and deter breaches rom occurring.

These include the introduction of custodial sentences for serious data breaches and data protection training.

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.

– Emma Car, Director of privacy campaign