Scottish councils lose personal data of 10,000
04 September 2012
Hundreds of council data security incidents have led to the loss of data on more than 10,000 people in Scotland over the past five years, figures released under freedom of information laws have revealed.
Laptops containing images of children were lost, as was confidential pension information and Blackberry devices containing sensitive emails. These breaches were amongst more than 250 incidents, Scottish Conservatives said.
Personal information on nearly 4,500 people had been lost over 47 incidents at West Lothian council alone.
Highland council was said to have lost personal data belonging to more 1,800 people in nine cases. And East Lothian saw data losses affecting more than 1,200 residents.
The party also highlighted cases at Aberdeenshire Council, where two laptops were stolen in one year, with the devices containing images of school children. This was followed by the loss of a CD containing images of pupils and a USB device with other data on children.
But the full impact could be even higher than the 10,000 figure with some authorities unable to disclose the number of individuals affected.
"The Data Protection Act clearly emphasises the importance of keeping personal information safe, but clearly with councils losing the personal information of 10,000 individuals over the past five years, they aren't doing nearly enough to protect individuals from data losses," said Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell.
"Given the highly sensitive nature of the information held by councils, it is unacceptable that many could not even estimate how many people had been affected by their losses."
Mitchell warned that "very serious problems" could be caused if such personal information fell into the wrong hands.
"Data loss on this scale also causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety for a number of people," she said.
"Quite simply if some councils can keep a clean record on personal information losses, there is absolutely no excuse as to why others appear unable to do so.
"I therefore call on Scottish councils to review their data storage procedures to ensure that no more confidential and personal information is lost or stolen."