Data breaches 10 times worse, say ICO figures

Lock symbol on keyboard ICO fines firms that have repeated incidents of data breaches

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Data breaches in the UK have increased tenfold in the past five years, figures from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reveal.

In local government the increase was 1,609% and within the NHS 935%.

The figures were issued after a Freedom of Information Act request by data company Imation Mobile Security.

But the ICO says the numbers show that organisations report many more breaches than before.

There were 821 instances in the UK in 2011-12, compared with 79 in 2007-08.

Telecoms is the only sector that showed a decrease in the number of information breaches - there were none in 2011-12 and only nine in the previous five years.

But the ICO told the BBC the numbers demonstrated that organisations reported breaches much more now than before, because of increased awareness of the legal requirements on companies to keep people's data secure and a fine of up to £500,000 on companies that lose information because of negligence.

The penalty policy was introduced in 2010.

In the 12 months up to July this year, the watchdog has collected £2m in fines, three times more than the year before.

"Over the years we have provided practical support and guidance to organisations across the UK and are pleased that the health service and government sectors are now expected to report serious breaches, involving sensitive or large volumes of personal data, to our office," the ICO said in a statement.

"We would urge other sectors to do the same by following our guidance on security breach management."

More than 100 health records - almost half of them in NHS Grampian - went missing in Scotland in 2011.

The 104 files included personal details of children and sensitive health information, according to details in a Freedom of Information response.

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