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Local authority data loss exposed

Big Brother Watch has published a report into the worrying scale of data loss across local authorities.

We have uncovered more than 1000 incidents across 132 local authorities, including at least 35 councils who have lost information about children and those in care.

Highly confidential information has been treated without the proper care and respect it deserves. At least 244 laptops and portable computers were lost, while a minimum of 98 memory sticks and more than 93 mobile devices went missing.

Yet of the 1035 incidents, local authorities reported that just 55 were reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Perhaps more concerning, just 9 incidents resulted in termination of employment.

You can read the report here, including a full list of the incidents reported by every local authority.

Big Brother Watch believes the growing volume of personal information held by local authorities is a significant threat to personal privacy and civil liberties. This report highlights how, despite data protection law, not enough is being done to ensure sensite information is held securely and protected.

Responding to our report, Grant Shapps, Minister for Local Government, said:

“I welcome this research by Big Brother Watch. This reinforces the need for steps to protect the privacy of law-abiding local residents. Civil liberties are under threat from the abuse of town hall surveillance powers, municipal nosy parkers rummaging through household bins and town hall officials losing sensitive personal data on children in care.”

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, Councils, Data Protection, Privacy, Research and reports

15 Responses to Local authority data loss exposed

  1. Pingback: Data Protection Act Fail « Kevin Townsend

  2. Bob

    Looks like most of the lost/stolen devices were encrypted, so no information loss risk. Most organisations have rigorous information security policies in place – at ours you can’t attach any external device to a network attached computer without ICT authorising it. Policy states that any information being removed is on encrypted, managed devices. 
    Might have been good to highlight the fact that the majority of devices were actually secure?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Bob,

      In fact the picture varies hugely between authorities – some only have password level security, others have no encryption and in some cases malware was installed. In only approximately 100 cases was data encrypted.

  3. Jim

    What check is made to ensure that a Council is confessing to all data loses. One may not consider a lost passport qualifies as lost data perhaps.

  4. Chris

    Herts council is harassing people and threatening legal action for not signing the electoral register. Apart from the concern re data protection since I am already paying council tax I wonder why they are so “keen” and what this data is being used for?

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  7. Anonymous

    This report does not suprise me, the scale of data loss & breach incidents caused by laptop (and now tablet) loss or theft is huge. The Ponemon Intitute research cites that 1 in 10 laptops are stolen within 3 years, 50% are stolen from the workplace, only 25% of laptops have encryption, 65% of business managers with encryption keep a post-it note of the password with their laptop and 50% of business managers with encryption switch it off. This site backs up the argument with some really interesting & worrying statistics http://clicksafe.kensington.com/laptop-security-blog/bid/70832/Data-breach-equals-21-decrease-in-brand-value

  8. Pingback: What to do about UK data breaches? | Alan Calder on IT Governance, information security & ISO 27001

  9. Pingback: Council Data Loss – Rotherham’s shameful record from Big Brother Watch | Rotherham Politics

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  13. Jpas001

    I was once told that satilites can see a secret service agent iat the back door of the White House. I can see Big Brother doing that, but collecting private data of the citizens of this United States is truly a brrech of privacy to say the least. Our rights to privacy has become non exsistant. Why? And what gives them the right to do such a thing? It this what our hard earned tax dollars are spent on? Mr. Government, you should be asamed of your self.

  14. Pingback: Reduce your chance of an accidental breach. Protect your data on laptops and USB sticks | IT Governance Blog on IT governance, risk management, compliance and information security.

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