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Police force pays £120,000 penalty for data breach

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News release: 16 October 2012

An ICO investigation into a data breach at Greater Manchester Police has concluded with the force being fined for failing to take appropriate measures against the loss of personal data.

The action was prompted by the theft of a memory stick containing sensitive personal data from an officer’s home. The device, which had no password protection, contained details of more than a thousand people with links to serious crime investigations.

The ICO found that a number of officers across the force regularly used unencrypted memory sticks, which may also have been used to copy data from police computers to access away from the office. Despite a similar security breach in September 2010, the force had not put restrictions on downloading information, and staff were not sufficiently trained in data protection.

The findings prompted the Information Commissioner to use his powers under the Data Protection Act to impose a Civil Monetary Penalty of £150,000. Greater Manchester Police paid that penalty yesterday, taking advantage of a 20 per cent early payment discount (£120,000).

David Smith, ICO Director of Data Protection, said:

“This was truly sensitive personal data, left in the hands of a burglar by poor data security. The consequences of this type of breach really do send a shiver down the spine.

“It should have been obvious to the force that the type of information stored on its computers meant proper data security was needed. Instead, it has taken a serious data breach to prompt it into action.

“This is a substantial monetary penalty, reflecting the significant failings the force demonstrated. We hope it will discourage others from making the same data protection mistakes.”

The monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Commissioner.  

 

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
 
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter.
 
4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Secure
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

5. For more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.