Dumfries and Galloway Council probes fresh data blunder

A council is investigating a data protection blunder – less than 24 hours after it moved to tighten up information handling procedures.

Confidential social work files were lost after being dropped in a car park in Dumfries last week.

The incident was the third security breach at Dumfries and Galloway Council since March 2011.

The authority said its new policy would provide extra safeguards for the information which it holds.

The social work files were found by tourists who handed them in to police.

The incident has been reported to Scotland’s Information Commissioner.

Earlier this year, the council accidentally sent contact details of more than 2,000 childminders to child care groups in the region.

Last year the salary details of about 900 council staff were inadvertently released and later posted online by a third party website.

Director of social work John Alexander said he had already put arrangements in place to ensure there could be no repeat of the latest incident.

“I can confirm that a social worker dropped a file containing case information in the social work car park on Irish Street in Dumfries,” he said.

“The file was next to the staff member’s car close to the social work building.

“The social worker found the file was missing within five minutes and recovered it from the police station within 20 minutes.”

Deputy council leader Brian Collins said such incidents were “exactly” the reason why the council had agreed its new policy.

“Whilst such plans minimise the risk of a data breach, we can never eliminate human error entirely,” he said.

“We can always learn from such incidents and social work will be checking procedures to see what can be done to make further improvements and make personal data even more secure.

“As far as this incident is concerned, it will be the subject of a report to the Information Commissioner who will determine what action, if any, is to be taken.”

However, local Labour politicians said the policy was “already out of date”, having been written before the most recent incidents.

Group leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “Leaks of the public’s personal information are becoming endemic within this council.

“Council leaders need to get a grip or local people will wonder whether the council can be trusted with any confidential and sensitive information they hold.”

He said it showed the ruling Conservative/SNP coalition was “learning nothing” from previous problems.

“The frequency with which this council is having to report itself to the Information Commissioner is becoming an embarrassment,” he added.