Information Commissioner fires data warning as fines break £2m PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 July 2012 12:22

The Information Commissioner has warned organisations to “wake up and smell the CMP” (civil monetary penalty) after revealing that more than £2m in fines have been imposed for breaches of data protection laws.

Consumer lender Welcome Financial Services has become the latest body to be served with a penalty, ordered to pay £150,000 after its Shopacheck business lost back-up tapes containing information on its customers.

The amount is the highest so far imposed on a private sector organisation. The record fine of £325,000 was served on Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust after hard drives containing patient data were sold on an internet auction site.

Publishing the annual report for the Information Commissioner’s Office today, Christopher Graham claimed that the organisation had “bared its teeth” in 2011/12.

The ICO was given enhanced powers to fine organisations in breach in April 2010. It has now issued 21 CMPs, the vast majority of which have come in the public sector and local government in particular.

The report revealed that the number of data protection complaints received by the watchdog had remained pretty steady in the last twelve months at 12,985, down just 0.3% on the previous year.

The five areas generating the most data protection complaints were: lenders (15%); general business (11%); local government (11%); health (10%); and central government (6%).

In a third of cases (31%) an assessment was made and compliance considered to be unlikely.

The main reason for complaining was subject access (45%), followed by disclosure of data (17%) and inaccurate data (17%).

On the freedom of information and environmental information front, the ICO reported a 7.7% rise in complaints to 4,633.

In a quarter of the 1,131 cases (27%) where a decision notice was served, the complaint was upheld. It was partially upheld in a further 23% of cases, and not upheld in the other 50%.

The local government sector accounted for 43% of FOI complaints, compared to 24% for central government, 11% for health, 8% for education and 7% for police and criminal justice.

The main growth in the watchdog’s workload related to complaints under the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) – which govern electronic marketing - with 7,095 complaints received, up 43%.

Christopher Graham said: “Over the past year the ICO has bared its teeth and has taken effective action to punish organisations many of which have shown a cavalier attitude to looking after people’s personal information.

“This year we have seen some truly shocking examples, with sensitive personal information, including health records and court documents, being lost or misplaced, causing considerable distress to those concerned. This is not acceptable and today’s penalty shows just how much information can be lost if organisations don’t keep people’s details secure.

“We hope these penalties send a clear message to both the public and private sectors that they cannot afford to fail when it comes to handling people’s data correctly. It’s a case of ‘wake up and smell the CMP.”

On the issue of unsolicited marketing, Graham said the ICO had set up a dedicated team to enforce the PECR and was currently working to identify the operators responsible. It has also executed search warrants at a number of sites across the UK linked to companies it believes are breaking the law.

In his foreword to the report, the Information Commissioner said the organisation was closely engaged with both the proposals from the European Commission for a revision of the legal framework for data protection in the EU and the post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act by the House of Commons Justice Committee.

Graham wrote: “Our aim is to safeguard citizens’ complementary rights to information and to privacy. We can leave the campaigning to others, but we shall contribute our detailed and increasingly expert perspective to ensure that the framework that emerges delivers real, and not just theoretical, benefits for consumers and citizens.”

A copy of the 2011/12 ICO Annual Report is available here.

Philip Hoult

 

Latest News

April 17, 2014

Met Police find "no credible evidence of criminality" in Tower Hamlets files

The Metropolitan Police has found “no credible evidence of criminality” within files it received about the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to provide reasonable grounds to suspect that fraud or any other offence has… Read more
April 16, 2014

ICO raps two councils after data breaches involving social services records

Two local authorities have given undertakings to the Information Commissioner’s Office after breaches of the Data Protection Act in relation to social services records. Read more
April 16, 2014

Council and Leader defeat £670k slander claim over childrens care homes

A High Court judge has dismissed a £670,000 claim for slander brought against a borough council and its leader by two companies that operate residential children’s care homes in its area. Read more
April 15, 2014

LGPS Advisory Board publishes QC opinion on tobacco investment

An administering authority for Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) funds may choose to take into account the public health implications of tobacco investment but only if the result of such consideration is the… Read more
April 15, 2014

Judgment reserved in case over disqualification of councillor and free speech

The High Court has reserved judgment in a case where a councillor in Wales has sought to challenge – on the basis of his right to free expression as an elected politician – his disqualification for two-and-a-half years. Read more
April 14, 2014

MPs take Government bodies to task over poor complaints handling

Government as a whole cannot be said to be complying with best practice in complaints handling or adapting to the needs and expectations of today’s citizen, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has said. Read more
April 11, 2014

Welsh councils broke data protection laws "twice as often in 2013": BBC

The 22 councils in Wales broke data protection laws twice as often last year as they did in 2012, BBC Wales has said. Read more

 

Features

Dialogue iStock 000009191235XSmall 146X219
April 10, 2014

Consultation – backing no horses, and the importance of interim relief

David Hart QC looks at the lessons to be learned from a recent Court of Appeal ruling that a council had failed to consult properly on the closure of a day care centre. Read more
Money iStock 000008683901XSmall 146x219
April 02, 2014

Are local authorities bound by Ombudsman recommendations?

A High Court judge recently ruled that a council's decision to pay a developer only 20% of the £250,000 recommended by the Local Government Ombudsman was lawful. Nicholas Dobson analyses the case. Read more
April 02, 2014

The Duty of Candour - and general transparency

The Department of Health has published details of the proposed statutory Duty of Candour for health and adult social care providers, as well as a new general transparency duty. Corinne Slingo, Tracey Longfield and Belinda Dix examine the key points. Read more
April 02, 2014

Local authority control of charities - what are the limits?

The ties between a local authority and a charity were the subject of a recent Charity Commission report. Rachel Tonkin looks at the issues raised and the lessons to be learned. Read more
March 26, 2014

It's a sin to tell a lie

Jon Baines looks at the data protection issues raised by councils' use of voice risk analysis when benefit claimants are on the telephone. Read more
March 20, 2014

(Probably) the first group action for damages under the Data Protection Act

In December 2013 a group legal action was settled against a London borough following breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Anna Thwaites, who acted for the claimants, explains the legal basis for the claims. Read more

 

 

Knowledge Bank

May 18, 2012

Managing in a Political Environment

Author: Nicholas Dobson, Freeth Cartwright This paper outlines the changing role of the local government lawyer in the context of the legal, political and constitutional framework of local government. This paper looks at the legal powers that underpin the role of local authorities, including the…
April 19, 2012

General Power of Confidence – ‘A New Hope’?

Author: Nicholas Dobson, Freeth Cartwright The general power of competence has been designed to give councils the confidence to act, using the power as their primary tool, without needing to refer back to central government. The question is: will the new power deliver?
March 27, 2012

Predetermination and Bias - Can Careless Talk Still Cost Decisions?

Author: Nicholas Dobson, Freeth Cartwright Ministers entered government much exercised about the law surrounding predetermination. In the opinion of some, this was a conspiracy by local government lawyers to undermine the democratic process. And they were going to have none of it! The 2010…
March 15, 2012

Recent developments in freedom of information

Author: Anya Proops, 11KBW The body of jurisprudence relating to freedom of information has continued to develop apace over the last year. The exponential growth in appeals being heard by both the first-tier and upper tribunals has meant that practitioners are having to work ever harder to keep…

Older news and features

March 26, 2014

It's a sin to tell a lie

February 20, 2014

Searching for an answer

Click here for full section archive

Wilkin Chapman Goolden

Featured Jobs

Harrogate Chief Solicitor


CLICK HERE to search all current vacancies

Featured Courses & Events

Sign up for Courses and Events Updates

* indicates required

Services v2

Yellow pages iStock 000009762383XSmall cropTo access details of individual advertisers, please click on the relevant banner below.

To search all entries in the Local Government Lawyer Services Directory, please click here

 

Howell Christie Ltd

 


 Shout_to_the_top_looking_left_iStock_000006002590XSmall_98x74 Latest Blog Posts

 

 


 

Ballot_iStock_000006080605XSmall_thumb

Snap Judgement

Is the role of monitoring officer worth the risk?