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Recent statistics revealed that there were over 2,300 police data breaches in 2020, according to figures on the number of incidents reported to the ICO. The high figure raises questions about how effectively the force is managing data protection risks and ensuring the cybersecurity of its systems, and whether similar statistics may emerge for the 2021 period which is shortly due to end.
These statistics are particularly concerning given the often extremely sensitive nature of the information held by the police, which can include personal details of crime witnesses and victims. Everyone who discloses personal information to the police should have the right to do so in the knowledge that it will be kept secure and only viewed for specific investigation or work-related purposes. However, there are many unfortunate cases in which people have been let down by the organisation that is supposed to protect them.
If you have been affected by a police data breach, you may be eligible for a compensation claim. Our expert lawyers can offer free, no-obligation advice on your case.
A survey by VPNoverview on police data breaches in 2020 resulted in the collection of data from 31 police forces in the UK. Overall, there were reportedly more than 2,300 incidents across only 22 of the branches.
The final report also looked back on the previous four years, revealing that there was an average of almost 300 data breaches for each police station between 2016 and April 2021. A light was also cast on the forces that were responsible for the highest rates of data breaches, with the regions of Lancashire, Cheshire and Sussex understood to have featured among the worst.
We will be looking to see what the 2021 figures show, especially with the added stress of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There are real worries that the figures could be even worse than those for 2020.
The reported police data breaches in 2020 were not described in detail, and it was only established that they included both internal human error incidents and external cyberattacks. However, it is important to stress that police data breaches do not necessarily have to involve widespread information exposure, as they can often be harmful when they happen on a smaller scale.
For example, it can constitute a breach of data protection regulations when police officers access records without authorisation or without a valid policing reason. We have seen a number of incidents in which police officers have browsed systems without a professional reason to do so, sometimes seeking the contact details of people they have encountered while on duty, or looking at data for people they know. Such actions are not only extremely inappropriate, but they can also constitute breaches of data security and undermine the already fragile state of trust in our police services.
The high number of police data breaches in 2020 indicates that there is still work to be done for the police to meet data protection standards. It is unjust for the police to be putting victims and witnesses at risk in this way, as their safety should be a priority.
If you have been affected by a data breach caused by the police, you may have a compensation claim to make. It can be hard to know what to do if your data has been breached, but our specialist leading Data Leak Lawyers and legal team at Your Lawyers can advise you of the best course of action to take to ensure that you can access the justice you deserve.
To find out more, contact us for free, no-obligation advice on your case.
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