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ICO warns about historical personal data


The Information Commissioner's Office is warning people of the risks of holding on to sensitive personal data when they change jobs or leave a company.

It follows an investigation into the actions of two former Metropolitan Police officers who - having retained their notebooks - subsequently leaked information about a case in the media.

Although the ICO decided not to take action on this occasion (perhaps because the matter was investigated under 1998 legislation), it stressed that under the tougher Data Protection Act 2018 there is a new obligation not to "knowingly or recklessly retain personal data without the consent of the data controller".

The ICO says that anyone who uses personal information in the course of their job - from teachers, health workers, police officers to those in private business - should be aware of this law change.

Risk and Compliance considerations

  1. Implement procedures for when people leave your company, retire or switch jobs - ensure their access to personal information continues to be appropriate (i.e. there is a 'need to know' or any extra permissions are promptly removed)
  2. Promptly remove access permissions when people switch jobs - even unintentional leaks can violate privacy and damage your company's reputation
  3. Evaluate the data landscape - what electronic or physical access to personal information might someone retain (for example, in diaries, notebooks, calendars, etc.) when they leave?
  4. Protect against curious or prying employees - remind everyone that the ICO takes data privacy seriously and has taken action against many individuals – consider this case
    1. Jeannette Baines / Date 06 June 2019 / Type Prosecutions / Sector Charitable and voluntary /
    2. A Restorative Justice Caseworker has been prosecuted for sending sensitive personal data to her own personal email account without authorisation.
    3. Jeannette Baines had worked at Victim Support and sent spreadsheets containing a combination of victim and offender data from her work email address to her personal email address during her last week of employment.
    4. Jeannette Baines, of Merseyside appeared before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court and was found guilty of obtaining personal data, in breach of s55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. She was sentenced to a 3-year conditional discharge, ordered to pay costs of £600 and a victim surcharge of £20.
  5. Examples of failures = forwarding personal information to personal emails, for selling personal data on, or simply accessing personal information without a valid business reason). Share cases of violations to keep data protection 'top of mind'.

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