Ten-fold increase in data breaches

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has revealed that data breaches in the UK have increased tenfold in the past five years.

There were 821 instances in the UK in 2011-12, compared with 79 in 2007-08. In local government the increase was 1,609% and within the NHS 935%. 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.

The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. It says the numbers show that organisations report many more breaches 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 – a policy 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.

For Get Safe Online's information and advice for businesses about the Data Protection Act, click here.

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