DPA in an age of austerity

As the UK enters its new age of austerity, with public sector organisations finding draconian budget cuts, one must fear that citizens’ personal data will be increasingly at risk. The UK public sector (led by the NHS) has never been that amazingly good at protecting personal and sensitive information, as newspaper articles and the Information Commissioner’s website regularly attest.

The ICO has just taken enforcement action against three councils who failed to protect personal information, including information about children. The council’s failings were all pretty standard: unencrypted USB sticks, unencrypted laptops, inadequate staff training and inadequate supervision. These are all relatively simple – if costly – to remedy; the basics – essential DPA policies and procedures should all of course be in place already.

What still seems to be missing, though, is a real committment, on the part of public authorities, to taking the business of data protection seriously – I guess that we’ll actually need to see a series of £500k fines being levied before we see the majority of organisations raising their game on the field of protecting their citizens.