Barnet Council £70k fine for losing data including sexual records of children

07:00 22 May 2012

The files were in a laptop bag along with an encripted computer when they were stolen

The files were in a laptop bag along with an encripted computer when they were stolen

Archant

Barnet Council has been fined £70,000 after details including the names, addresses and sexual activities of 15 vulnerable children were stolen from a social worker’s home.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined the council after it was revealed that the loss was the second time in just over a year that personal information of residents had been stolen from staff members’ homes.

The loss occurred in April 2011 when a social worker took the papers home to work on them out of hours.

The papers were kept in a laptop bag – along with an encrypted computer - which was stolen when her home was burgled that night.

In June 2010, just after the first incident, Barnet Council signed an undertaking with the ICO and introduced a paper handling policy.

This policy - which the council admitted could have prevented the second incident happening - was not in place at the time of the loss in 2011.

An investigation by the ICO found that the council failed to take “appropriate organisational measures” against the accidental loss of personal data held on paper records.

Simon Entwisle, the ICO’s director of operations, said: “While we are pleased that Barnet Council has now taken action to keep the personal data they use secure, it is vitally important that organisations have the correct guidance in place to keep sensitive paper records taken outside of the office safe.

“This includes storing papers containing sensitive information separately from laptops.”

Barnet Council said that the new paper handling policy – which did not allow paper record to be kept with laptops - was in the process of being rolled out to all 3,000 staff when the second loss happened.

A spokesperson said: “This data loss was the result of a criminal act where a member of staff had their house broken into and material that was under lock and key was stolen.

“The ICO also accepts that it was appropriate for the member of staff to have this material at home for this period.

“There is no evidence that the material taken has been misused in any way.”

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