Fears over possible data leak after council lose £29k of equipment
06:00 05 June 2014
Nearly 50 town hall laptops and phones have been lost or stolen in the last three years – racking up a £29,000 bill and sparking fresh concerns over data protection.
New figures obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveal that during last year alone, Islington Council misplaced 28 computers, tablets and mobiles.
The council insist all of the technology lost or stolen was “safely encrypted”.
But the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that, while there was a “greatly reduced risk” the data could be decoded, it would look to investigate any loss of equipment containing sensitive information as it wouldn’t be completely impenetrable in the hands of a smart hacker.
Cllr Caroline Russell, the sole opposition at the council, described the news as “worrying”.
The Green party councillor for Highbury East, said: “People are human, and losing a laptop is something we know can happen. But 28 this year does seem high and losses of laptops can have worrying implications for protection of data.
“The council needs to be looking at what support it can offer to reduce these types of losses and ensure that when they do happen the implications for data protection are minimised.”
Andy Silvester, campaign manager for the Taxpayers Alliance, said: “Local residents, who have paid for these items with their council taxes, will be shocked at the remarkable number that have gone missing.
“You could imagine one or two being lost or being stolen, but losing 28 laptops in one year is astounding. It’s a very big bill for taxpayers to be footing.”
Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance and resources, said: “We issue advice to staff to reduce the likelihood of equipment being lost or stolen and treat all losses seriously, reporting thefts to the police.
“While all council-issued laptops and BlackBerrys are securely encrypted, our priority is rapidly to remove any lost or stolen items from the network and get any lost mobile phones blocked straight away.
“Where a replacement is necessary, we may purchase new stock or replace the lost item with a spare device.”
The revelations follow two data leaks in 2012, for which the council was fined a total of £110,000 by the ICO.
The first saw the council send details of 50 residents on the Andover Estate in Holloway to thugs they had been complaining about, leaving a number of people having to be rehoused.
The council insists that measures and rigorous checks are now in place to prevent any similar breaches in future.