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Data breach after production company unlawfully filmed expectant mums without their permission

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A TV production company has been fined £120,000 after filming expectant mums without their permission. This shocking data breach took place at Clinic 23 at Addenbrooke's Hospital Cambridge. The walk-in clinic cares for patients who have concerns about their pregnancy.

What happened in this data breach case?

True Visions Productions (TVP) was making a Channel 4 documentary on stillbirths. It set up cameras and microphones in examination rooms at the hospital. Filming took place between July and November 2017 until expectant mothers expressed concerns.

TVP had the hospital trust's permission to be on site. But the company did not explicitly warn all visitors about the filming. Nor did they get acceptable permission from those affected by the filming. As a result, TVP unfairly and unlawfully filmed patients andwas fined £120,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Clinic 23 data breach ruling

The ICO ruling said:

"TVP had posted limited notices advising of the filming near to the cameras and in the waiting room area and had left letters on waiting room tables. However, the detailed investigation found that these letters did not provide adequate explanations to patients, with one notice incorrectly stating that mums and visitors would not be filmed without permission."

"The law says that personal data must be processed fairly and transparently. A patient attending the clinic would not have reasonably expected there to be cameras in examination rooms and would expect to be made aware of any filming."

Recording stopped in November 2017. Filming then resumed using different methods until spring 2018. The programme was broadcast the following October. However, the unlawfully obtained footage was deleted and was not aired.

Anxiety and stress

Commenting on the data breach, a spokesperson for the ICO said: "Patients would not have expected to have been filmed in this situation, and many will have been very distressed when they learned such a private and potentially traumatic moment had been recorded. The recorded footage would have included the sensitive personal data of patients who could already be suffering anxiety and stress."

A spokesperson for Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust said: "While protocols were in place to protect privacy, we acknowledge the ICO decision and we are sorry for any distress caused."

TVP has hit out over the decision, stating that it was "disappointed in the outcome". It has said that the ICO's approach was wrong. It is also "considering the decision and the potential for an appeal."

Did TVP get off lightly?

Many would argue yes. While being hit by a £120,000 fine, the maximum fine possible was £500,00. What's more, due to the timing of this investigation, the penalty falls under the previous Data Protection Act. If it had been scrutinised under current law, the fine could have been much higher. In fact, the ICO now has the power to impose penalties of up to £17 million.

Also, despite clearly upsetting expectant mothers at a hugely vulnerable time, it doesn't appear that TVP has taken responsibility for its actions.

In most cases, data breaches happen because of a failure to implement reasonable and robust processes. So claiming compensation isn't just in your best interests. It is often the only way organisations will take their responsibilities seriously. And make the necessary improvements.

Compensation for those affected by the data breach

The ICO is an independent authority. It upholds information rights in the public interest. It also promotes openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. But, while the ICO has the power to impose fines on organisations, it does not award compensation to victims.

However, if you have suffered any emotional distress caused by unlawful filming at the clinic, you might have a data breach compensation claim.

Many data breach victims have developed stress, anxiety and distress. In response, at Hayes Connor Solicitors we help our clients to get their lives back on track.

Register to ensure you are fully informed about this case. We will notify you about the investigation. We will also update you on your legal rights when making a claim.