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Enforce data security systems or face a hefty fine

Enforce data security systems or face a hefty fine

Contractor accountants handling personal data need to ensure that data security is at the forefront of their minds.

IT security systems are very much in the spotlight with the news that the Information Commissioners’ Office has started handing out fines.

Earlier this year, the ICO was granted the power to hand out fines of up to £500,000 to small businesses and other organisations for data misuse and loss. The dubious honour of being the first organisation to be punished went to Hertfordshire County Council. The Council was fined £100,000 for transmitting “highly sensitive” personal information by fax to the wrong people.

An employment services company, A4e, received a fine of £60,000 for the loss of an unencrypted laptop that contained personal information about 24,000 people who had visited community legal advice centres in Leicester and Hull.

The ICO has been highlighting the need to encrypt personal data and ensure electronic communications are directed to the right people since 2007. These two fines show that the Commission is intent on enforcing these requirements.

The highlighted HCC case was not the first time the Council had sent personal information to the wrong recipients. They were punished for failing to prevent it happening again. The ICO expects businesses to have a response strategy in place to ensure failures in data protection do not recur. On the other hand, A4e did have an encryption policy in place and yet the personal data concerned in the laptop incident had not been through that process.

Although these fines may seem quite large, UK consumers want to see even larger penalties handed down to guilty companies, according to a survey from OnePoll. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said businesses should receive hefty fines and nearly a third suggested that company directors should face criminal proceedings if the data protection breach was serious.

As well as the potential fine, companies should be aware that 66% of people will try to avoid firms that lose data, whilst 17% will go out of their way to avoid the organisation in the future.

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Image: theif II by D4tography

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