Information Commissioner's Office
Fine for lawyer who stored client files on home computer
A senior barrister who failed to keep clients’ sensitive personal information secure has been fined £1,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Information belonging to up to 250 people, including vulnerable adults and children, was uploaded to the internet when the barrister’s husband updated software on the couple’s home computer.
Some 725 unencrypted documents, which were created and stored on the computer, were temporarily uploaded to an internet directory as a back up during the software upgrade.
They were visible to an internet search engine and some of the documents could be easily accessed through a simple search.
Six of those files contained confidential and highly sensitive information relating to people who were involved in proceedings in the Court of Protection and the Family Court.
Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO said:
“People put their trust in lawyers to look after their data - that trust is hard won and easily lost.
“This barrister, for no good reason, overlooked her responsibility to protect her clients’ confidential and highly sensitive information. It is hard to imagine the distress this could have caused to the people involved – even if the worst never happened, this barrister exposed her clients to unnecessary worry and upset.”
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 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
- 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. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
- 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; and
- not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
- Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.
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