West Sussex County Council high on data-loss list

Woman using laptop
Image caption Many incidents listed in West Sussex involved lost or stolen laptops

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has been named by a campaign group as one of the top 10 worst-offending authorities for loss of private data.

The council was named as seventh on a list compiled by Big Brother Watch.

In the report, WSCC had 36 incidents between 2008 and 2011, including 13 incidents of lost or stolen smartphones and 16 of lost or stolen laptops.

WSCC said the report was misleading. It claimed its actual figure was 29, out of which 25 were "low-risk".

'Too many'

Research director from Big Brother Watch, Maria Fort, said: "We're looking at cases from West Sussex of things like Blackberries that were lost or reported stolen, or in some cases paper files, but I think the problem is they often assess these as low risk.

"At the end of the day, I think that any case in which someone's personal data has been lost is one case too many and there is no such thing as low risk."

A statement issued by WSCC said: "We take our responsibility to protect sensitive data very seriously."

It added: "In the vast majority of cases, information and data on lost devices is protected and the council uses sophisticated techniques, such as disk encryption, to protect data."

WSCC said the campaign group's report itself pointed out there was a great discrepancy of approach in its collected data.

The statement said: "In our case the figures are misleading - there were actually 29 separate incidents reported, of which 25 were low risk because either no sensitive data was lost, or the lost equipment was protected."

Reported to police

Big Brother Watch based its data on Freedom of Information requests sent to councils across the UK.

The report said that with the 13 lost or stolen Blackberries in West Sussex, all the devices were wiped remotely.

The 16 lost or stolen laptops were reported to police.

Four USB sticks were lost - police were notified of one incident and in another incident all council staff were told to use encrypted devices.

The three remaining incidents involved paper records.

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