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With the cyber threat facing healthcare organisations across the globe and on a domestic level at a high, a significant Public Health England data breach could easily happen. With cybersecurity and data protection under such scrutiny, it is natural that doubts have been cast over all kinds of data controllers in the healthcare sector.
The spike in cyberattacks on the healthcare sector has been a much-reported issue over the past year or so, with a perception that cybercriminals have sought to take advantage of the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is also true that a vast number of data breaches within the healthcare sector are caused by human error, so healthcare organisations must focus on internal training to ensure that they keep information secure.
If you have been affected by a healthcare data breach, you may be entitled to claim compensation for the harm caused. At Your Lawyers – the Data Leak Lawyers – as leading privacy claims experts, we have years of experience in data breach claims, and we can use our expertise to help you achieve the justice you deserve.
While a Public Health England data breach may be a major concern right now, Public Health Wales was recently reported in association with one of the most serious data breach incidents of the coronavirus pandemic. From the beginning, there were concerns about the security of the Test and Trace system, and Public Health Wales, unfortunately, proved that some doubts were justified.
In September 2020, it was revealed that the personal information of around 18,000 Welsh residents who had submitted positive coronavirus tests had been accidentally published online by Public Health Wales. The exposed information reportedly included dates of birth, initials, geographical locations, and sex data. Although it was unlikely that victims could be identified from the information, the incident could have been far more serious if it had involved more sensitive data.
With all that is going on in the healthcare sector right now, the possibility of a Public Health England data breach of a similar nature is a real cause for concern. There was a controversy in 2018 concerning the body’s disclosure of statistical information when it was revealed that, in 2016, anonymised records of almost 180,000 lung cancer patients were reportedly disclosed by Public Health England to an American law firm via a Freedom of Information request. In itself, the disclosure was deemed to have been acceptable, but it was found that the firm in question acted for Philip Morris International, a global cigarette brand. There were concerns that this information may be used in campaigns that could seek to “play down” the dangers of smoking.
This incident raises questions about the body’s handling of information and how rigorous its procedures are in terms of data transfer. With access to such extensive medical details, it is vital that organisations like Public Health England thoroughly consider the law and the ethics around data protection. That being said, as long as they comply with the law, there may be little cause for complaint; even if a disclosure event feels morally questionable.
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