UK: ICO urges more care with personal data as Nursing and Midwifery Council receives £150,000 penalty

The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued  a £150,000 civil monetary penalty to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for breaching the Data Protection Act.

The council regulates nurses and midwifes. As part of its duties, it conducts “fitness to practice” reviews in cases where there are allegations of misconduct. In that capacity, the council sent three DVDs and other information related to a nurse via courier service to a hotel in Cardiff where a hearing was to be held. The DVDs contained unencrypted confidential personal information with audio and visual evidence from two vulnerable children.

The packages were picked up by the courier on October 7, 2011 and delivered to the hotel on October 10, but when the council opened the package, the DVDs were missing, even though there was no sign of tampering with the package.  The DVDs have not been located.

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 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.”

Update: ITPRO got a statement from the council that says, in part:

“Our policy, in place at the time, required encryption. We received the DVDs from the police unencrypted but we failed to encrypt them before we sent them on. We very much regret this and have now corrected our practice.”

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