£185k data breach fine for department

Published Tuesday, 11 February 2014
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An £185,000 fine has been handed to the Department of Justice after a filing cabinet containing confidential paperwork was sent to auction.

£185k data breach fine for department
Justice Minister David Ford blamed the breach on human error. (© Pacemaker)

One of the department's agencies, the Northern Ireland Compensation Agency, sent 59 filing cabinets without keys to auction.

But, a person who had bought a locked cabinet had to contact the police when he found papers inside it after forcing the cabinet open.

The paperwork, dating from the 1970s until 2005, contained highly sensitive information including personal details relating to victims of a terrorist attack, the injuries they suffered and the amount of compensation being offered, as well as private ministerial advice.

The PSNI took possession of the papers and returned them to the department who then reported the incident to the Information Commissioner.

After an investigation, the Department of Justice said that it is content that the cabinet remained locked until the purchaser forced it open and immediately reported the presence of papers to the PSNI.

Justice Minister David Ford said: "I, and my Department, take the security of personal data very seriously and accept that this was a breach of the Data Protection Act and should not have happened. We informed the Information Commissioner as soon as we became aware of the breach. The Justice Committee was also subsequently made aware. The Department has co-operated fully with the Information Commissioner and paid the penalty imposed.

"This was an unfortunate breach of data security caused by simple human error and not a systemic problem within the Department. We are satisfied that none of the information was compromised and none of the other cabinets sold contained any files.

"Detailed procedures have now been implemented to ensure that, in future, any personal data contained in furniture that is being disposed of will be dealt with securely," he concluded.

Following a probe, the Information Commissioner imposed a Monetary Penalty Notice of £185k on the Department of Justice, which was then discounted to £148k for early payment.

© UTV News
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4 Comments
The Street in Lisburn wrote (253 days ago):
Where those who names where on the confidencial papers told there was a breach, I don't think so in case they claim.
Andy in Belfast wrote (253 days ago):
David Ford should resign, this is disgraceful and another example of his incompetence. Last week he stepped out of line about the appointment of a new Chief Constable.
Larry in Belfast wrote (253 days ago):
Was it only 'human error' because there was no permanent damage done, or would it have been a disaster waiting to happen if the wrong person had purchased the cabinet. This is eyewash to try and defuse what is really a very serious breach of security. The justice minister is far too glib about the matter.
Stuart in belfast wrote (254 days ago):
It's a blatent disregard of people's information, if the proper checks were in place it wouldn't have happened. Procedures should have been in place to counter "human error". With David Ford as the head of the department,I'm not surprised it happened. He is totally incompetent and blaggs his way through his job.
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