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A member of the public recently alerted the media to a police email data breach that is understood to have occurred at Dorset police. Revealing details of an alleged hate crime incident, the email came as a shock to the recipient, who could not understand how and why he had received the private information.
At Your Lawyers – the Data Leak Lawyers – as leading privacy claims lawyers, we have seen far too much information exposure caused by email errors. There are basic security barriers and procedures that can prevent such mistakes from occurring. However, unfortunately, many public sector organisations continue to commit needless data protection errors.
The police have specific data access privileges, giving them the right to process and store highly sensitive personal information for the purposes of detecting and fighting crime. It is, therefore, vital that the police ensure they are doing their utmost to protect personal data. Where they fail to abide by their legal duties, they could be forced to issue compensation pay-outs to those affected. It is important that all members of the public feel safe when disclosing their information to the police.
This latest police email data breach is said to involve pupils from two schools, whose details were recorded by the police in relation to an alleged racially motivated hate crime. The recipient of the email, who had been in contact with the police in relation to an unrelated matter, received an email containing the details of two schools the students attended, as well as the name of three students themselves.
It has also been reported that the full content of the racist message was also included in the email.
In a statement about this particular police email data breach, Dorset Police asserted that it was a “human error” that caused the incident. It stated that the incident was being investigated in order to determine whether or not it needed to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the data protection regulator.
As demonstrated above, incredibly sensitive information can be exposed in police data breaches. If the Dorset police email data breach had caused the students’ information to fall into the wrong hands, their information could have been exposed more widely, or subjected to all kinds of misuse.
Unfortunately, this is not the only way in which the police can expose private information. For example, there are certain officers who abuse their privileges of information access by viewing information for non-police matters. A Police National Computer data breach can occur when officers browse the system for information that is not required for professional purposes.
Even where the police officers do not have any overtly malicious or inappropriate intent, it can still constitute a significant breach of data protection law.
If you have fallen victim to an incident like the one at Dorset Police, you may be eligible to claim compensation for the harm caused.
As specialists in data breach claims, Your Lawyers has brought cases against a number of public and private sector organisations that have failed to protect personal information. Our current high-profile cases include our Virgin Media group action, and our British Airways group action.
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