Back in April of this year New Forest District Council reported a data breach which occurred in 2018, when a member of the public submitted a request to the local authority through the website www.whatdotheyknow.com. The website helps people with their Freedom of Information Act requests and then publishes the results online.
The FOI request was for all Council Housing properties, including properties bought under the Right to Buy Scheme. This scheme allows some tenants to buy their council home at a discount. On 10 October 2018, a Council member responded to the request and provided a spreadsheet with the requested information.
What data was breached?
It was discovered that the spreadsheet contained an additional tab which had a list of properties bought under the Scheme. The additional spreadsheet contained the buyers’ personal information, including:
- full names, property address, mobile phone numbers, dates of birth, the amount of discount awarded and reference numbers.
The impact of the data breach
Of course the consequences and impact of data breaches such as these will differ from person to person. But often the mischief is caused by the perception of the harm that might be caused if the data were to fall into the wrong hands. Some of those affected could think that the worst is likely to happen. The unauthorized disclosure of even apparently trivial personal data can be profoundly upsetting. Just last week we blogged about the NHS’s Digital website and how easy it was to access third party vaccination information without authority. A trivial breach to some – but to others, deeply distressing. (Read more here).
But back to the New Forest, where the Council has apologised for the breach and any upset it might have caused to tenants. Sally-Anne Poole enforcement group manager has commented:
“We will be monitoring other local authorities to scope compliance in this area on a national level. Any council found to have an unacceptable error rate may be subject to regulatory action.”
If you have been affected by a data breach by a local authority which has caused you loss (either financial or distress), get in touch and one of our solicitors at DRM Legal will advise on your data breach claim.