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Councils in the dock over personal data misuse

Councils have been warned that they need to improve their data protection procedures following revelations that, cumulatively, they have lost or misused personal data thousands of times; with one employee leaving child protection files on a train and another using CCTV to watch a colleagues wedding.

Big Brother Watch, the privacy campaign group, claims there were no less than 4,236 data breaches in the three years from April 2011, with sensitive or confidential information involved in 260 cases and data breaches linked to children in a further 658.

The group further found that data was lost or stolen on 401 and 628 occasions respectively where incorrect or inappropriate information was shared via email, letter or fax.

Despite the seriousness of some of these failings just one in ten cases resulted in disciplinary action and just one person has been prosecuted.

Group director Emma Carr said: “Despite local councils being trusted with increasing amounts of our personal data this report highlights that they are simply not able to say it is safe with them.

“A number of examples show shockingly lax attitudes to protecting confidential information. For so many children and young people to have had their personal information compromised is deeply disturbing.

“With only a tiny fraction of staff being disciplined or dismissed this raises the question of how seriously local councils take protecting the privacy of the public.”

Big Brother Watch compiled the data from Freedom of Information requests.