From the UK Information Commissioner’s Office:
Wigan Council has agreed to take action to comply with the Data Protection Act after the theft of a laptop computer containing personal information relating to approximately 43,000 children and young people. The laptop included personal details on most children and young people in Wigan’s schools. The information had been downloaded on to the laptop in breach of council policy. Although the laptop was stored in a locked office, the data on the device was not protected as the laptop was not encrypted.
The ICO found Wigan Council in breach of the Data Protection Act and Joyce Redfearn, Chief Executive at Wigan Council, has now signed an Undertaking confirming that the organisation will take a number of steps to improve data security.
Sally-Anne Poole, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said: “I strongly advise organisations to avoid instances where employees can download large volumes of personal information. This incident could have been averted if the data was simply accessed from the main council computer network. Storing large volumes of personal information on portable devices is unnecessarily risky. If personal details fall into the wrong hands, individuals can experience considerable distress. It is vital that personal information is handled securely, especially where so many children and young people are concerned. I am pleased that the council has taken action to guard against security breaches of this nature.”
Wigan Council has agreed to ensure that portable and mobile devices, including laptops and other portable media used to store and transmit personal data, are encrypted. Staff will be appropriately trained and made aware of the policy for the storage and use of personal data, and the council will ensure that staff adhere to the policy. The council will also implement other appropriate security measures to ensure that personal data is better protected.
A copy of the Undertaking can be downloaded from http://stg.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/data_protection/enforcement.aspx