Management > Identity

Notts County Council fined £70,000 over data breach

David Bicknell Published 31 August 2017

Nottinghamshire County Council gets fine for “serious and prolonged breach” after leaving vulnerable people’s personal information exposed online for five years


The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Nottinghamshire County Council £70,000 for what is described as “leaving vulnerable people’s personal information exposed online for five years.”

It said the Data Protection Act requires organisations to take appropriate measures to keep personal data secure, especially when dealing with sensitive information. But in its judgement it said the council posted the gender, addresses, postcodes and care requirements of elderly and disabled people in an online directory “which didn’t have basic security or access restrictions such as a username or password.”

The ICO said the issue was only discovered when a member of the public using a search engine was inadvertently able to access and view the data with no need to log in, and was concerned that it could be used by criminals to target vulnerable people or their homes – especially as it even revealed whether or not they were still in hospital.

The ICO’s head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said, “This was a serious and prolonged breach of the law. For no good reason, the council overlooked the need to put robust measures in place to protect people’s personal information, despite having the financial and staffing resources available.

“Given the sensitive nature of the personal data and the vulnerability of the people involved, this was totally unacceptable and inexcusable. Organisations need to understand that they have to treat the security of data as seriously as they take the security of their premises or their finances.”

Detailing the reasons behind the breach, the ICO said the council had launched its ‘Home Care Allocation System’ (HCAS), an online portal allowing social care providers to confirm that they had capacity to support a particular service user, in July 2011. When the breach was reported in June 2016, the HCAS system contained a directory of 81 service users. It is understood the data of 3,000 people had been posted in the five years the system was online.

The ICO said the data exposed included people’s gender, addresses and post codes, personal care needs and requirements such as the number of home visits per day, and whether they had been or were still in hospital. Although service users’ names were not included, a determined person would be able to identify them, it said. The ICO added that the council offered no mitigation.

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