Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham City Council lost 64,000 tenants' details

Birmingham City Council lost the personal data of 64,000 of its tenants, a report has revealed.

The incident happened in 2009 when a housing officer misplaced a USB stick containing the information.

It is the only time private data has been lost by or stolen from the council in the past three years, according to research by Big Brother Watch.

The campaign group also highlighted seven incidents involving Dudley Council and three in Sandwell.

'Lack of precaution'

In a statement, Birmingham City Council said the employee, who was suspended and later resigned, downloaded profiles of tenants on to a memory stick without permission in order to work on a project away from the office.

It added: "The council reported the incident to the Information Commissioner who judged the council's actions to be appropriate and made no further recommendations.

"Since this occurred, the security of all USB sticks used by staff has significantly increased and [all] are password protected."

Nick Pickles, from Big Brother Watch, said: "It shouldn't be possible for a member of staff to simply plug one in, download thousands of people's information and then walk out of the building and drop it in the street.

"Yet across the country we've found cases where all kinds of information is being lost simply because people take the convenient route to moving data around and don't take proper precautions."

Some 132 authorities across the UK said they had had a total of 1,035 cases of data loss or theft between 2008 and 2011.

No losses were reported by 263 councils, while a further 38 did not respond.

Theft from car

Among the seven incidents reported by Dudley Council, one involved the loss of an encrypted memory stick with details of 99 council housing tenants.

The council said: "Although there has been a small number of incidents of data loss over the past three years in Dudley, we work very hard to avoid such incidents taking place."

The theft of a file containing details of a child from a car was one of the three incidents involving Sandwell Council.

Deputy leader Councillor Mahboob Hussain said: "The council takes its data security responsibilities very seriously and has strengthened existing practices and introduced a number of others to meet legal requirements.

"Staff are made aware that personal data must be disposed of in a secure manner, either by the use of a secure data disposal company or by destroying the information with a cross cut shredder."

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