Employees could face a criminal prosecution if they access or share personal data without a valid reason, the Information Commissioner’s Office has warned.
The warning came after Birmingham Magistrates' Court fined two workers in separate cases for breaching data protection laws.
Faye Caughey, 32, of Ringswood Road, Solihull was employed at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) when she unlawfully accessed the personal records of 14 individuals between February 2017 and August 2017.
The Court heard that as part of her job, Ms Caughey was authorised to access records of adults on two separate systems – HEFT’s iCare and CareFirst from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.
But an internal investigation found that Ms Caughey viewed personal data of seven family members on iCare and seven children known to her on CareFirst. There was no business need for her to do this and so, she broke data protection law.
Ms Caughey pleaded guilty to breaching s55 and s60 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA1998) when she appeared at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on 15 March 2019. She was fined £1,000, with a £50 victim surcharge, and was ordered to pay £590 towards prosecution costs.
In a separate case, the Court heard that Jayana Morgan Davis, 32, of Wood Green Road, Birmingham forwarded several work emails containing personal data of customers and other employees to her personal email account in August 2017, weeks before resigning from her role at V12 Sports and Classics Ltd.
At Birmingham Magistrates' Court on 15 March 2019, Ms Morgan Davis admitted to three offences of unlawfully obtaining personal data in breach of s55 and s60 of the DPA1998. She was fined £200, with a £30 victim surcharge, and was ordered to pay £590 towards prosecution costs.
Mike Shaw, who heads up the criminal investigations team at the ICO, said:
“People expect that their personal information will be treated with respect and privacy. Unfortunately, there are those who abuse their position of trust and the ICO will take action against them for breaking data protection laws.”
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation 2003.
- The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit.
- A limited number of criminal enforcement cases – including this case - are still being dealt with under the provisions of s55 the Data Protection Act 1998 because of the time when the breach of the legislation occurred.
- Criminal prosecution penalties are set by the courts and not by the ICO.
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.