The Information Commissioner’s Office has urged organisations to review their policies on how personal data is handled, after the Nursing and Midwifery Council was issued a £150,000 civil monetary penalty for breaching the Data Protection Act.
The council lost three DVDs related to a nurse’s misconduct hearing, which contained confidential personal information and evidence from two vulnerable children. An ICO investigation found the information was not encrypted.
David Smith, Deputy Commissioner and Director of Data Protection, said:
“It would be nice to think that data breaches of this type are rare, but we’re seeing incidents of personal data being mishandled again and again.
While many organisations are aware of the need to keep sensitive paper records secure, they forget that personal data comes in many forms, including audio and video images, all of which must be adequately protected.
“I would urge organisations to take the time today to check their policy on how personal information is handled. Is the policy robust? Does it cover audio and video files containing personal information? And is it being followed in every case?
“If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the organisation risks a data breach that damages public trust and a possible weighty monetary penalty.”
The council had been couriering evidence relating to a ‘fitness to practise’ case to the hearing venue. When the packages were received the discs were not present, though the packages showed no signs of tampering. Following the security breach the council carried out extensive searches to find the DVDs, but they’ve never been recovered.
David Smith continued:
“The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s underlying failure to ensure these discs were encrypted placed sensitive personal information at unnecessary risk. No policy appeared to exist on how the discs should be handled, and so no thought was given as to whether they should be encrypted before being couriered. Had that simple step been taken, the information would have remained secure and we would not have had to issue this penalty.”
Further details about today’s case can be found on the ICO's civil monetary penalty notice page.
The ICO has published guidance for organisations on the use of encryption.