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Could your pet be the cause of a data breach?

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At Hayes Connor, our data protection solicitors deal with many different types of data breaches. But a recent case was particularly unusual. In this instance, a missing family cat was the cause of the data breach.

What happened in this data protection breach?

We represented a family whose cat went missing causing them understandable upset. The cat had been microchipped, so they were hopeful that they would be reunited with their pet.

In April last year, the data stored by the company responsible for the electronic chip was breached. This breach happened when someone found the cat and took it to be scanned.

Usually, a vet will inform the owner that their pet has been found. However, contrary to the established procedures, in this case, two different vets accessed our client's data and disclosed this to the person who found the cat. This included our client's home address.

To make matters worse, our client only found out about the pet data breach when a neighbour asked if the cat had returned home after it disappeared from her friend's home (the person who found the cat in the first place). So at no point was our client told that their beloved family pet had been found.

In this case, it would be tempting just to blame the vets involved, but after investigation, it became clear that the company responsible for holding the microchip information had not put systems in place to protect the personal data it was responsible for. This lack of adequate internal security systems did nothing to prevent the sharing of personal data by the vet practices.

As a result the family has a claim against the vets that breached their personal data, and the microchipping company.

Why did our client need data protection solicitors?

The family felt that their complaint wasn't being adequately responded to or taken seriously.

Frustrated that their distress was not being acknowledged they decided to take legal action. They chose Hayes Connor as we specialise in data breach litigation and were also able to take on this pet data breach case on a no win-no fee basis.

What was the result of this pet data breach case?

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the UK's data protection regulator. We advised our client to report this matter to the ICO, which ruled that there had been a breach of Data Protection obligations.

As a result, our client was awarded £1,250 compensation and, just as important, the recognition they wanted for the distress this had caused. Our data protection solicitors also wrote to the microchipping company to advise them on their information rights practices, and have sent recommendations regarding improvements going forward.

Talking about their experience, our client said:

"Very pleased I went with Hayes Connor I would recommend them and use them again if I ever needed to. I didn't originally set out to make a compensation claim but I'm glad I did. You took my claim seriously and just as importantly your involvement made those responsible take it seriously as well.

Lessons learned

In many cases, data breaches such as this can be avoided by employees abiding by the data protection principles of their organisations. But it is up to these organisations to make sure that all staff receive regular data protection training to make sure they understand the potential consequences of breaching data protection laws.

Helping to reduce the impact of data breach violations

The Data Protection Act exists to protect the privacy of individuals. However, many organisations have struggled to keep up with changes in the rules, and this could leave everyone vulnerable.

In response, at Hayes Connor, our data protection solicitors help our clients to make compensation claims after their data was put at risk by the organisations they trusted to look after it.

If you or a member of your family has suffered financial damage, emotional distress or a loss of privacy caused by a breach of the Data Protection Act (the UK's interpretation of the GDPR), you have a right to claim compensation.

Not Just Hackers

Cybercrime is big news. It's almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing about how some big company has been hacked with thousands of customers put at risk. But, while these cases are important, every day smaller data breaches are causing misery and upset to people across the UK.

Our experts deal with a significant volume of data breach cases each day. During our work, we see many different types of claims and how data breaches can affect people in different ways.

Helping to reduce the number of data violations taking place across the UK, we are sharing such real-life examples of data protection breaches to raise awareness of this issue and educate people to prevent similar instances from happening.

For more advice on how to keep your data safe, follow the Hayes Connor #NotJustHackers campaign onTwitterandFacebook.

Alternatively, if you have been the victim of a data breach,find out how we can help you to recover any lossesor contact us to discuss your case in more depth.