Police, Councils and Government Departments are unintentionally releasing personal and confidential information on a regular basis.
This is according to the freedom of information website ‘whatdotheyknow.com’. The website which automates freedom of information (FOI) requests and publishes its responses, has reported on 154 accidental data leaks since 2009. These also included reports from the NHS.
Public authorities work under a code of conduct that requires personal information to be anonymised or completely removed before its release, however these incidents reported failed to complete this process.
Councils are the worst offenders, with a third of mistakes coming from local government organisations. One of the most worrying occurrences was when earlier this year Northamptonshire county council published information on more than 1,400 children.
The information was removed within a few hours and was then reported to the information commissioner’s office (ICO), however it does not reduce the disturbing question of who has viewed and /or stored the information.
In February, Greater Manchester police published names and internal details of police officers that had been subject to official complaints over the course of 2010 and 2012. In another incident, a mental health trust included information in a spreadsheet that could have led to the identification of 1,260 individuals deemed at risk of suicide.
All this information has been uncovered by volunteers for the website that look through the material and categorise the incidents, when any information has been found they remove it and contact the authority in question or the ICO.