The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has once again chided the public sector for its sloppy data handling after audits at NHS Trusts and local and central government levels revealed worrying practices.
The warnings come after audits of some 60 organisations, including private sector firms as well, found that only one of 15 NHS organisations audited satisfied the ICO's highest level for data handling procedures.
Local government departments fared little better with only one in 19 audited reaching its top assurance criteria; only two of 11 central government got top marks.
Louise Byers, head of good practice at the ICO, said while the practices in place that the ICO saw were not awful it was still concerned organisations were not doing enough to protect sensitive information.
"The results of these reports show why we have requested an extension to our compulsory audit powers to cover the NHS and local government sectors," she said.
"Organisations in these areas will be handling sensitive information, often relating to the care of vulnerable people. It is important that we have the powers available to us to help these sectors improve."
The poor performance from the public sector comes despite numerous fines being levied against NHS and local government departments, suggesting education remains a major problem for those in public sector.
In contrast, the private sector fared much better, with 11 of 16 firms passing the ICO's highest assurance requirements.
"The private sector organisations we have audited so far should be commended for their positive approach to looking after people's data," said Byers.
However, she added that firms should not rest on their laurels and urged more private firms to agree to audits from the ICO, which at present only have to be undertaken voluntarily.
"We are still seeing relatively few companies agree to an ICO audit and further improvements can be made, particularly when it comes to the retention and deletion of data," she added.
The praise for the private sector must be seen in this context, as at present only those that agree to an audit will have been seen by the ICO, which is likely to lead to only those firm confident in their practices beeing visited, while the worst offenders escape investigation.
The update comes just a week after the ICO promised that fines passing £250,000 would be leveled against two organisations in the private sector for sending spam text messages to consumers.
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