PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.
Dealing with Data Loss
The loss of personal data is a regrettably common occurrence. Any organisation which knowingly suffers a loss of data on its customers, suppliers or members (e.g. employees) needs to consider carefully what action to take.
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has recently issued guidance for organisations that lose personal data, having reported that it has been notified of nearly 100 such incidents to date.
One of the less intuitively obvious suggestions is to think carefully about whether all the potentially affected people need to be notified. For example, notifying all your customers about a security glitch which in reality affects only a small proportion of them may produce a flood of enquiries and requests for further information from unaffected people, as well as possibly undermining their confidence in your organisation.
What is advisable is to obtain an accurate understanding as soon as possible of the scale of the loss and the potential impact on the people whose personal information has been lost. For example, if the information is such as to make identity fraud a possibility, it is likely to be more important to notify the people concerned than if the lost information is simply a list of names and addresses (which could be obtained easily from other sources).
The ICO advises that there are four important elements to consider when creating a breach management plan. These are
- Containment and recovery;
- Assessment of ongoing risk;
- Notification of breach; and
- Evaluation and response.
The guidance is recommended reading for any organisation which holds personal data and should be considered as part of your data risk management strategy. It can be found at:
Reference should also be made to the ICO’s good practice guides on data security management at:
In April, the Financial Services Authority published its report on data security in financial services. The report contains much useful information and advice on the maintenance of good data security. See http://www.fsa.gov.uk/pubs/other/data_security.pdf.
Data security is an important but widely neglected issue for many organisations. Failure to follow adequate data protection procedures can have severe consequences, not only from the point of view of fines, but also damage to reputation and possible claims for losses suffered by those whose data has been compromised.
We can assist you in helping to make sure that your legal risks due to data loss are minimised.