Solicitor warns the toothless data protection dog is biting back

15th March 2012

A Midlands solicitor who specialises in the Data Protection Act is warning people in the region to be aware that what was once known as the toothless dog of an Act is now biting back - and hurting.

Kate Legg, a commercial solicitor at Higgs & Sons says the Data Protection Act has been criticised in the past for its lack of address.

She explains: "Although the Act sought to protect personal information, there was little in the way of deterrent, enforcement or punishment for infringers.

"This position has now dramatically changed and people in the region need to be aware and act accordingly."

The summer of 2011 saw the ICO (the body responsible for data protection enforcement in the UK) gain new powers to issue fines of up to £500,000.  Since then, the ICO has proved that it is not shy in pursuing potential infringers and issuing fines.   A string of recent cases have highlighted that even innocent mistakes can lead to a substantial fine.

At the end of 2011 the ICO issued a fine of £130,000 to Powys County Council after staff mistakenly stapled pages of a report relating to one child to the back of a report relating to another child.  The report containing personal information on both children was then mistakenly sent out to the parents of the second child.

Other recent cases have seen substantial fines for emails being mistakenly sent to the wrong recipient, as well as a string of cases involving lost or stolen laptops, USB sticks and other devices where the device did not carry adequate encryption technology, passwords and other security measures.

Kate says: "Whilst a fine in itself is painful enough, such cases will also invariably be accompanied by a press release and subsequent bad publicity for the infringer.

"In light of the more aggressive approach which seems to have been adopted by the ICO, I suggest that businesses in the region ensure that they have adequate data protection procedures in place and that staff are aware of the potential risks.  Doing so may not only save a substantial fine, but also makes good business sense."

To find out more about your Data Protection obligations or for further advice please contact Kate Legg.

Kate Legg


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