As the ICO fine Kent Police £100,000 Jan Smith, CEO of EOL IT Services, asks how this can happen?

A recent press release confirmed that the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) “has served a monetary penalty of £100,000 on Kent Police after confidential information, including copies of interview tapes, was left in the basement of a former police station.

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This press release immediately reminded me of the “Home Alone” film – where everyone was so keen to escape on vacation, that they left their youngest son at home!

The press release states that “the highly sensitive information included records relating back to the 1980s, thought to have been left at the site when the building was vacated in July 2009.”

How could anyone leave such important information behind?  Surely an asset/data crime register would have identified these as missing?  Clearly no organisation public or private, wants to be exposed embarrassed and subsequently fined by the ICO?

The press release continues that “The information was discovered when a police officer was visiting a business owner about an unrelated matter on 27 November 2012 and noticed a pile of tapes with the logo of Kent Police stuck on them. The business owner confirmed that he had found the tapes in the basement of the old police station, after purchasing the site two months before, and was planning on watching them for entertainment.”

“The police service visited the site of the old station the next day and recovered hundreds of additional documents and evidence tapes. These included recorded interviews with informants, crime victims and individuals who had subsequently been convicted. The documents also included information about police staff.”

“The ICO’s investigation found that Kent Police had no guidance or procedures in place to makes sure personal information was securely removed from former premises. The problem was made worse due to an apparent breakdown in communications between the various departments involved in the move.”

ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said:

“If this information had fallen into the wrong hands the impact on people’s lives would have been enormous and damaging. These tapes and files included extremely sensitive and confidential information relating to individuals, many of whom had been involved in serious and violent crimes. How a police force could leave such information unattended in a basement for several years is difficult to understand.

“Ultimately, this breach was a result of a clear lack of oversight, information governance and guidance from Kent Police which led to sensitive information being abandoned. It is only good fortune that the mistake was uncovered when it was and the information hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands.”

This “gotcha” fame and notoriety grows daily, with organisations both public and private caught, after assuming their data security processes are top notch.  A huge mistake, but equally so avoidable if you partner with an organisation like EOL IT Services Ltd who have provided erasure and destruction of such data, regardless of the media on which it is held, for over 17 years.  Whilst cost cutting may cause these events the onward cost in fines, alongside reputational damage never forgotten, are horrendous.

If you have retired IT Assets that need to be disposed of or require assistance with secure data erasure/data destruction then contact our Client Services department today on 0845 600 4696.

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