Brands warned over £500k fines

Racing post office bare all for ICOThe Information Commissioner has warned errant brand owners that they face fines of up to £500,000, after issuing the first monetary penalties for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act.
The first penalty, of £100,000, was issued to Hertfordshire County Council for two serious incidents where council employees faxed highly sensitive personal information to the wrong recipients. The first case, involving child sexual abuse, was before the courts, and the second involved details of care proceedings.
The second monetary penalty, of £60,000, was issued to employment services company A4e for the loss of an unencrypted laptop which contained personal information relating to 24,000 people who had used community legal advice centres in Hull and Leicester.
The Hertfordshire County Council breaches occurred in June 2010 when employees in the council’s childcare litigation unit accidentally sent two faxes to the wrong recipients on two separate occasions. The council reported both breaches to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The A4e data breach also occurred in June 2010 following the company issuing an unencrypted laptop to an employee for the purposes of working at home. The laptop contained sensitive personal information when it was stolen from the employee’s house.
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “It is difficult to imagine information more sensitive than that relating to a child sex abuse case. I am concerned at this breach – not least because the local authority allowed it to happen twice within two weeks. The laptop theft, while less shocking, also warranted nothing less than a monetary penalty as thousands of people’s privacy was potentially compromised by the company’s failure to take the simple step of encrypting the data.
“These first monetary penalties send a strong message to all organisations handling personal information. Get it wrong and you do substantial harm to individuals and the reputation of your business. You could also be fined up to £500,000.”
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