A total of 31 reported data breaches occurred at Horsham District Council in a three-year period from 2011 to 2014.
According to a report by Big Brother Watch, an organisation that aims to challenge policies threatening privacy, freedom and civil liberties, incidents ranged from information on names and ages of children being published in a committee report, an encrypted council laptop being loaned to a charity and then stolen, driving license numbers of 52 members of staff not redacted in a Freedom of Information request response, to a copy of a planning message being left in the council offices’ ground floor disabled toilet.
A Horsham District Council spokesperson said: “The Horsham cases referred to in the report are predominantly minor in nature and the Information Commissioner did not consider any of them serious enough to warrant action against the council.
“Nevertheless we are always keen to improve our performance in all areas and as part of this we examine what lessons can be learned from more serious cases in other organisations.
“For example, all our laptops are fully encrypted so, if stolen, a thief would not be able to access any of the data and the council’s training in data protection has been reinforced. There have been no breaches so far in 2015 and we are confident that we are managing data effectively and will continue to do so going forward.”
The BBW report, a Breach of Trust, highlights all data breaches at local authorities from April 2011 to April 2014.
Emma Carr, a director at Big Brother Watch, said: “Far more could be done to prevent and deter data breaches from occurring. Better training, reporting procedures and harsher penalties available for the most serious of data breaches, including criminal records and custodial sentences are all required.
“Until we see these policies implemented, the public will simply not be able to trust local councils with their data.”
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