Council fined for leaving sensitive files in cabinet sent to second hand shop

A county council which left files that included sensitive information about children in a cabinet sent to a second-hand shop has been fined £60,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The breach by Norfolk County Council came to light after social work case files were discovered in a cabinet purchased by a member of the public from a second-hand shop. The case files included information relating to seven children.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said:

“The council had disposed of some furniture as part of an office move but had failed to ensure that the cabinets were empty before disposal. Councils have a duty to look after any personal information they hold, all the more so when highly sensitive information is concerned – in particular about adults and children in vulnerable circumstances.
“For no good reason Norfolk County Council appears to have overlooked the need to ensure it had robust measures in place to protect this information. It should have had a written procedure in place which made it clear that any storage items removed from the office which may have contained personal were thoroughly checked before disposal.”

Having the appropriate staff and procedures in place is key to ensuring councils look after personal information properly.

This will be crucial when a new data protection law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – setting high standards for organisations when it comes to the privacy of personal data – comes into force from May 2018.

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