Lock up your data

The importance of ensuring the security of personal data has been highlighted in a recent press release from the ICO dated 4 June 2009. The ICO has found Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust in breach of the Data Protection Act, after a desktop computer containing sensitive personal information relating to around 3,500 patients was stolen. Although the computer was password protected, it was not encrypted or secured to a desk.

A formal undertaking has been signed by the Trust. It will ensure that: appropriate security measures are in place to restrict access to areas where personal information is stored; desktop computers are secured to desks to prevent easy removal; any personal data required to be held on a portable device is suitably encrypted; and personal details are not retained on any computer for longer than is required.

Mick Gorrill, Assistant Information Commissioner at the ICO, emphasised that the worrying trend of personal data losses must be rectified. He said:

“I am increasingly concerned about the way some NHS organisations are failing to securely hold people’s health and personal information. Organisations must implement appropriate safeguards to ensure personal details about patients do not fall into the wrong hands.”

Many thanks to Andrew Smith, currently a pupil at 11KBW, for preparing a first draft of this post.