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Islington fined £70k for data breach

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Islington LBC has been fined £70,000 for mistakenly releasing personal data in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The council issued a spreadsheet in response to an FOI request for information about the gender and ethnicity of people the council had rehoused. However, the officer who released the document did not realise that personal information was concealed behind the summary tables.

According to MySociety, which runs the WhatDoTheyKnow site through which the FOI request was made, the personal data related to 2,376 individuals and families who had made applications for council housing or were council tenants, and included “everything from name to sexuality”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office said the data also included details of whether individuals had a history of mental illness or had been a victim of domestic abuse.

The ICO’s head of enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said: “Councils are trusted with sensitive personal information, and residents are right to expect it to be handled in a proper way.

“Unfortunately, in this case that did not happen, and Islington council must now explain to residents how it will stop these mistakes being repeated.”

A spokesman for Islington LBC said: “We remain extremely sorry for the upset and worry this disclosure may have caused to some people.

“The council carried out a thorough investigation when this disclosure came to light, and we have since put in place more rigorous checks.

“The person who released the data did not have sufficient knowledge of spreadsheets to recognise the error or to put it right. All of our employees who are tasked with responding to FOI requests have now had additional training with an emphasis on how to prepare information for public release.”

The council plans to pay the fine promptly to receive a 20% discount, reducing the penalty to £56,000.

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