Big Brother Watch has grown used to receiving reports of local councils misplacing, losing and accidentally leaking confidential information about their local residents. Indeed, earlier this month, we reported on the worrying case of a Hampshire council who divulged confidential information about the mental health of a resident.
A supporter has written in alerting us to the loss of an unencrypted memory stick containing the personal details of 40 children in care in the city of Stoke-on-Trent - a council rated one of Britain's worst performing local authorities.
Commenting on the case, the Information Commissioner's Office said:
"When handling sensitive personal information, particularly information relating to the care of vulnerable children, it is important that authorities ensure the necessary measures are in place to protect this information.
"This incident occurred before April 6 so the powers now available to the Information Commissioner to issue penalties of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act, could not be considered."
In this case, Stoke City Council appears to have effectively gotten away with it.
How long, for example. until a council divulges the identities of women on the run from abusive relationships? Is it out of the question that information on the identities of children on the 'at risk' register might become public property as a result of a lack of adherence to data protection laws? Could we see a repeat of central government's loss of personal bank account details on a local level?
Not for the first time, however, this type of data loss only serves to heighten the need for increased staff training to improve the awareness of the importance of maintaining standards of data security at Britain's local councils.
By Daniel Hamilton.