Digital Transformation

Companies ‘cannot afford to fail’ when it comes to handling data correctly

The latest £150,000 fine imposed by the ICO demonstrates the consequences of mishandling data

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released its annual report for 2011/2012 on July 5th, revealing a 43 per cent rise in complaints made under the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations, as well as a seven per cent increase in the number of Freedom of Information related cases.

And with consumer lender Welcome Financial Services Limited (WSFL) recently being hit with a £150,000 fine by the ICO for losing the details of more than half a million customers, the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, emphasised the need for organisations to properly protect people’s data.

"Over the past year the ICO has bared its teeth and has taken effective action to punish organisations many of which have shown a cavalier attitude to looking after people’s personal information," he said.

"We hope these penalties send a clear message to both the public and private sectors that they cannot afford to fail when it comes to handling people’s data correctly."

Following the latest Civil Monetary Penalty (CMP) handed to WSFL, the ICO has now issued fines totalling over £2 million since being given the power to hand out such punishments in April 2010.

Indeed, despite the risk of potentially damaging financial and reputational consequences that can result from failing to take effective data protection measures, it seems that some companies are still taking for granted the need for handling sensitive information efficiently.

In the case of WFSL, the fine was imposed after one of its businesses lost two back up tapes that contained confidential details such as customer’s names and addresses. The files have never been recovered.

While there are extensive benefits to be had from taking advantage of online resources and the technological capabilities of the modern world, it remains vitally important that companies take sufficient steps to protect any sensitive information that they store.