Thomas Bridge 05 December 2014

Data breaches costing local government millions, FOI reveals

Data breaches have cost local government over £2.3m in fines since 2010, with council organisations named some of the worst for protecting confidential information.

A Freedom of Information request sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) by Egress Software Technologies has revealed £470,000 worth of fines for data breaches was levelled at local government between April 2013 and June of this year.

The three months to June 2014 saw 9% more data breaches in local government than over the same period last year. However central government experienced a growth in breaches by over one-third.

Research suggests that local government is one of the worst organisations in the public sector for protecting confidential data, with only the NHS experiencing more data breaches.

Human error accounted for 93% of all reported data breaches across both the public and private sector over the first three months of 2014. A quarter was down to the accidental loss or destruction of personal data, up from 15% for the second half of 2013.

Only 7% of charted breaches over the same period came as a result of technical failings, the research suggests.

‘The upward trend in the number of data breaches throughout key areas of the public sector should be a cause for continued concern. These organisations are handling particularly sensitive information, with local government providing services direct to and on behalf of citizens, many of whom are vulnerable or at-risk,’ CEO of Egress Software Technologies, Tony Pepper, said.

‘To date, the ICO has levied in access of £6.7m in fines. It is alarming to see that well over half of that, indeed £4.5m, is coming from the public sector alone.

‘In particular, local government has contributed over one-third to this total. Not only are these organisations and bodies responsible for handling citizens’ data, their malpractice is being paid for by the public pocket.’

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