The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has again voiced frustration with the lax data handling in councils after it was revealed that five more authorities have lost data on citizens.
The councils involved are Brighton and Hove Council, where an employee emailed a colleague's personal data to 2,821 council workers, while Bolton Council sent several hundred staff or contractors an employee's completed occupational health form.
Dacorum Borough Council had a laptop stolen that contained around 1,000 registration documents of children, while Craven Council in Yorkshire had an unencrypted laptop containing information on 2,300 children stolen.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council mistakenly sent information on citizens to the wrong recipients on four separate occasions.
All avoided fines.
Information commissioner Christopher Graham said public sector authorities must understand their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act to protect citizens information or face the consequences.
"Failures not only put local residents' privacy at risk, but also mean that councils could be in line for a sizeable monetary penalty," he said.
"We must also consider the detrimental impact these breaches continue to have on the individuals affected. Disclosing details about someone's social housing status can be upsetting and damaging for those affected."
Last week, Graham revealed he had sent a letter to public sector chiefs, co-signed by the head of the civil service Robert Kerslake, urging them to make more effort to ensure sound data protection practices are carried out.
In the letter, now published by the ICO, Graham warned councils they could face fines as high of £500,000 for data beaches, pointing out the example of Powys Councils which was hit with a penalty of £130,000, if they ignore their responsibilities.
"We are writing [...] to emphasise the importance of good information governance in ensuring transparency, providing people with confidence that their personal information is being handled properly and in protecting the vulnerable," he wrote.
"Unfortunately, includes of data loss continue to occur and in several cases these are of a significant nature, involving the data of many people or sensitive personal information."
The ICO has also issued undertakings against youth charity Fairbridge for the loss of two unencrypted laptops, as unprotected devices continue to be a major source of frustration for the ICO.
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