Councils under fire after thousands of data breaches

Emma Carr

A number of Scottish local authorities have been criticised by a campaign group for their “shockingly lax attitudes to protecting confidential information”.

Big Brother Watch, a pro-privacy pressure group, has released a new report showing there were 4,326 data breaches in councils across the UK between April 2011 and April 2014, including instances of personal information being lost or stolen.

Children’s information was involved in 658 breaches.

Glasgow City Council saw the sixth-highest number of data breaches over the three-year period, at 128 breaches.

No other local authority in Scotland recorded as many breaches.

There were a further 88 breaches in West Lothian Council, while City of Edinburgh Council refused the pressure group’s request for information, citing cost and time.

North Lanarkshire Council confirmed that it experienced 28 data breaches over the period, but also refused to provide further information under Section 38 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch , said: “Despite local councils being trusted with increasing amounts of our personal data, this report highlights that they are simply not able to say it is safe with them.

“A number of examples show shockingly lax attitudes to protecting confidential information. For so many children and young people to have had their personal information compromised is deeply disturbing.

“With only a tiny fraction of staff being disciplined or dismissed, this raises the question of how seriously local councils take protecting the privacy of the public.

“Far more could be done to prevent and deter data breaches from occurring. Better training, reporting procedures and harsher penalties available for the most serious of data breaches, including criminal records and custodial sentences are all required.

“Until we see these policies implemented, the public will simply not be able to trust local councils with their data.”

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