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Can you make a data breach claim against Nottinghamshire County Council?

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Last year, Nottinghamshire County Council was fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The fine came after the Council left the personal information of vulnerable people it was supposed to protect exposed for five years.

The sensitive data included the gender, addresses, postcodes and care requirements of 3,000 elderly and disabled people.

Such failures could have severe consequences for those affected. So, victims should now be looking to make a data breach claim against Nottinghamshire County Council.

What happened in this case?

In 2011, Nottinghamshire County Council launched its Home Care Allocation System. This was an online portal which allowed social care providers to confirm that they were able to support a particular person.

However, five years later, a member of the public informed the Council that the unprotected directory could be accessed via a simple online search. During this time the data could have been viewed by anyone. With no need to log in. And, although the service user's names and house numbers were not included, it would have been possible to identify them.

This situation is particularly worrying as the data contained in the system could have been used by criminals to target vulnerable people. It could also have been used to alert criminals about when people were in hospital, and when their homes were sitting empty.

What was the result of the investigation?

The incident has been called a serious and prolonged breach of the law by the ICO. The investigation also found that, despite having the financial and staffing resources available, the Council overlooked the need to put robust measures in place to protect people's personal information.

Calling the data protection breach "totally unacceptable and inexcusable", the ICO said that the distress to services users was likely to be substantial. Particularly given the sensitive nature of the personal data and the vulnerability of the people involved. For example, the report into the breach states that "elderly and vulnerable service user may worry that a thief or burglar would use the information to prey on her whilst at home or in hospital."

Furthermore, the ICO has agreed that such concerns are entirely justifiable, even if they never actually happen.

What can you do?

While the ICO has the power to impose hefty fines on organisations who fail to meet their data protection obligations, it does not award compensation to victims. But, once an organisation has been found guilty by the ICO - as in this case - you can use that information to support a data protection compensation claim.

Central and local government bodies handle some of our most sensitive personal data, and we have the right to expect this will be looked after and kept safe. As such, organisations such as Nottinghamshire County Council must start to look after our data as carefully as they would their own money or offices.

Very often, the only way to ensure they do this is by claiming compensation for data protection breaches and holding them to account.

What's more, it doesn't matter if there is no evidence that the data has been used to carry out identity theft or fraud. If the data breach has caused you stress or anxiety (in a way that could be diagnosed by a psychologist), then the law agrees that you are entitled to compensation.

While Nottinghamshire County Council informed the ICO as soon as the failure was uncovered, because it occurred before the General Data Protection Regulation came into force in May 2018, it was not obligated to tell individuals if their data was breached. So, you may not know if your sensitive information was put at risk. But if you are in any doubt, it's worth finding out, and we can do this for you.

If you are one of those affected and are concerned that your data was treated negligently, contact Hayes Connor Solicitors immediately. We can help you to make a data breach claim against Nottinghamshire County Council andclaim the maximum amount of compensation in the minimum amount of time. We can do this on a no-win, no-fee basis.

With strict-time limits in place for making most compensation claims, it's essential to act now.