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Cryptzone: councils' ICO fines could have been avoided

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Fines issued this week to two county councils for email mistakes have been described as avoidable.

As reported by SC Magazine on Monday, North Somerset Council and Worcestershire County Council were fined for ‘serious email errors'.

At North Somerset Council, an employee sent five emails, two of which contained highly sensitive and confidential information about a child's serious case review, to the wrong NHS employee. It was served with a penalty of £60,000 for a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

At Worcestershire County Council, highly sensitive personal information about a large number of vulnerable people was sent to 23 unintended recipients. The Information Commissioner's Office has served a penalty of £80,000 to the council.

Grant Taylor, vice-president of Cryptzone, said the reasons for the fines were understandable, and claimed such action would be unnecessary if councils had the right security controls in place and took action following policy violations.

He said he hoped the penalties would send a clear message not just to those working in the social care and allied sectors, but any organisation dealing with sensitive personal information.

Taylor said: “There really is too much of this sort of thing going on across local government and allied agencies. People who handle highly sensitive personal information need to understand the real weight of responsibility that comes with keeping that data secure.

"The bottom line here is that the information commissioner takes this sloppiness seriously, and so should you. We've had more than 18 months of warnings against public sector bodies and that approach has not worked; monetary penalties are a regrettable measure of last resort.”

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