Scottish charity loses two unencrypted memory sticks

A Scottish charity – based in Glasgow – breached the Data Protection Act after two unencrypted memory sticks and papers containing the personal details of up to 101 individuals were stolen from an employee’s home.

The information included peoples’ names, addresses and dates of birth, as well as a limited amount of data relating to the individuals’ health. The charity – Enable Scotland (Leading the Way) – promptly reported the incident to the ICO in November 2011 and informed those individuals affected.

The ICO’s investigation found that the information should have been deleted from the memory sticks once it had been uploaded onto the charity’s server. The charity had no specific guidance for home workers on keeping personal data secure, and portable media devices used to store sensitive personal information were not routinely encrypted.

Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland said:

“Organisations that use memory sticks to store personal information must make sure the devices are properly protected. Encrypting the data means that the information will remain safe even if the device is later lost or stolen. It is also important that employers provide home workers with guidance on how to keep any personal data taken outside of the office secure, as this is potentially when the information is most vulnerable.

“We are pleased that Enable Scotland has taken action to keep people’s information safe, however this incident should act as a warning to all charities that they must ensure that personal information is handled correctly.”

Peter Scott, Chief Executive of Enable Scotland, has now signed an undertaking, committing the charity to improving its compliance with the Data Protection Act. This includes making sure laptops used to store sensitive personal data are encrypted. Hard copy files will only be removed from the office when absolutely necessary and will contain the minimum amount of personal data required. Guidance will also be provided to home workers, to ensure that any personal data taken outside of the office is kept secure.