A report published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has highlighted ‘clear room for improvement’ in how local authorities comply with the Data Protection Act.
The ICO audited 16 local authorities last year. The audits include an overall ‘assurance rating’, but none received high assurance that they were complying with data protection law. Six were told they had considerable room for improvement, while one was warned that immediate action was required.
Today’s report includes a list of areas for improvement identified by the audits, notably improving training and ensuring effective data protection governance is in place.
The report also lists examples of good practice found during the audits, in areas such as information security and records management.
Announcing the publication of the report John-Pierre Lamb, ICO Group Manager in the Good Practice team, said:
“The Information Commissioner has levied monetary penalties to local authorities for the most serious breaches of the data protection principles totalling over £2.3 million.
“The types of breaches we’re seeing are fairly consistent, with personal information being disclosed in error and lost or stolen paperwork and hardware prevalent.
“It’s clear that there’s room for improvement, and not just by the local authorities we visited: the areas for improvement we identified in those visits should prove helpful to many local authorities.
“By learning from the mistakes of others, and indeed learning from the examples of good practice we found, local authorities will improve their compliance with the law, and be less likely to find the regulator knocking on their door.
“Our figures show that local authorities have much to do to improve data protection governance and training. We recognise that councils are having ‘to do more with less’ due to ongoing budgetary pressures, but it is important to appreciate that the lack of effective governance structures and training programmes significantly increases the risk of serious breaches of the DPA.”