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Council fined for left-behind files

A council has been fined £100,000 by the data protection watchdog. Hampshire County Council documents containing personal details of over 100 people were found in a disused building.

Social care files, with 45 bags of confidential waste, were found at Town End House, in Havant. They contained what the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) termed highly sensitive information about adults and children. The new owners of the building found the documents after purchase in August 2014.

Steve Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said: “Hampshire County Council failed to ensure that highly sensitive personal data about adults and children in vulnerable circumstances was disposed of. The council knew the building had housed a department that dealt with confidential information and should have had a proper procedure in place to check no personal data was left in the building. Organisations must implement effective contingency plans to protect personal data when decommissioning buildings.

“The council’s failure to look after this information was irresponsible. It not only broke the law but put vulnerable people at risk.”

The ICO found the council had failed to follow the law which says that organisations, whether businesses or public authorities, must have technical and organisational measures in place to guard against accidental loss or destruction of personal data.

The new owners bought Town End House after the council’s Adults and Children’s Services department left the building, meaning there was two years when agents selling the property and prospective buyers had access to it.

Mr Eckersley said: “Thank goodness the company reported the find of personal details. If the information had ended up in the wrong hands it could have had distressing consequences.”


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