Leicester City Council has admitted that it has lost a memory stick containing the details of dozens of children and their families.
An investigation has been launched and council staff have been contacting all families affected yesterday after the flash drive went missing from a nursery. The council has admitted that it does not know whether the data was lost or stolen and has informed the police.
The names, addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers of around 80 children are thought to be on the stick. The city council-run nursery has not yet been named, as council officers want to contact families directly first.
Parents and carers will be given support and advice on changing phone numbers or, in extreme circumstances, will even be offered help changing address.
Council leaders today apologised and said the data should never have been stored on a memory stick in the first place. Council chief executive Sheila Lock said: “We take something like this very seriously. We want to express our concern and apologise for this loss. We are very sorry about this. We believe it to be a serious and unacceptable breach of our protocols and we will investigate it and take appropriate action.”
Councillor Peter Coley, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “The administration has got to make sure that this doesn't happen again.”
Jason Holloway, regional sales manager Northern Europe for SanDisk, commented: “Data that is this sensitive has to be protected wherever it is – even if the memory stick is only being used internally to transfer from one PC to another. This means using strong, industry-standard, mandatory encryption that users can't turn off, or get around.
“In April this year, SanDisk surveyed IT managers and end-users, and 12 per cent of end users reported finding a USB flash drive in a public place. What is more, 55 per cent indicated they would try and view the data on it. So data encryption is a must-have for USB drives.”