SENSITIVE personal information — including the details of hundreds of children — has been compromised by councils amid thousands of “deeply disturbing” data breaches, new research revealed today shows.
Local authorities recorded 4,236 data breaches in three years from April 2011 — a rate of almost four a day, the study by privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch found.
A social worker from Lewisham Borough Council — who resigned during disciplinary procedures — accidentally left paperwork on a train containing confidential details about 10 children and information linked to sex offenders.
An unencrypted laptop holding records of 200 schoolchildren was stolen from Aberdeenshire City Council.
Sensitive or confidential information was compromised in 260 of the cases, while breaches involved personal data linked to children on 658 occasions.
Data was lost or stolen on 401 occasions, while there were 628 instances of incorrect or inappropriate information being shared on emails, letters and faxes.
In some cases council staff were found to have accessed material “for personal interest.”
Brighton and Hove has the highest amount of reported data breaches with 190. A total of 167 town halls reported no cases at all after Big Brother Watch submitted Freedom of Information requests.
The campaigners called for custodial sentences for the most serious data breaches after finding just one in 10 resulted in disciplinary action and only one led to prosecution.
Director Emma Carr said: “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.”