The recent Birmingham City Council data breach has caused the exposure of private residents’ information, allegedly including details relating to vulnerable children (although this has reportedly been disputed).
As is the case in many council data breaches, the incident appears to have occurred as a result of human error, when staff mistakenly uploaded private information to a public access website. According to the council, the data was swiftly taken down, but the time for which it was uploaded may have been long enough to make the information accessible to unauthorised third parties.
In cases such as this, it may appear that little harm has been done, but all data breach incidents can be capable of causing significant distress for the victims. We trust local authorities like Birmingham City Council to safeguard our data. When they fail in this duty, they can be liable to compensate the victims for the harm caused.
Birmingham City Council data breach – the cause and the effects
We understand that the council sent out an internal email on 19th March to notify staff of a severe breach which had been provoked by an employee error. When operating the council’s “BRUM” account website, a mistake was made when uploading citizen data, causing private information to be posted insecurely.
The webpage provides residents with access to a range of council services, and it is alleged that the affected information includes details of children who are eligible for free bus passes, though the council has since denied this.
With the lack of security for their information, the victims of the data breach could have had their private information fall into the hands of unauthorised users. However, the notification email stated that the Birmingham City Council data breach had been rectified quickly, with the information being swiftly taken down as soon as the mistake was identified.
The risks of data protection errors
It may be the case that the Birmingham City Council data breach is of low risk for the victims, given that staff corrected the issue quickly.
The ICO has decided that the breach does not warrant further investigation.
However, if the error had not been noticed, it may have caused significant damage to those affected. One councillor highlighted the sensitivity of children’s data, which he suggested could have been highly valuable to criminals looking to recruit vulnerable youngsters into organised crime.
The council has claimed that the email sent to staff was only done so as a precaution and was designed to remind them of their data protection obligations. There is no room for error where personal data involved and, where possible, there should be system securities that can prevent human mistakes from causing such leaks and exposure.
Data breach claims for victims
If you have been affected by an incident like the Birmingham City Council data breach, you may be able to claim compensation. Data controllers have a legal obligation to protect personal data, as the effects can be devastating when private information is exposed.
As specialists in data breach claims, we want to make sure that victims of data breaches can achieve the justice they deserve. Anyone who thinks they may have a claim to make can contact us for free, no-obligation advice. We may be able to offer No Win, No Fee legal representation.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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