By Maximilian Clarke

A care provider with offices in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man has taken action to improve its data protection practices following a joint ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Office of the Data Protection Supervisor (ODPS) for the Isle of Man.

Praxis Care Limited breached both the UK Data Protection Act and the Isle of Man Data Protection Act by failing to keep peoples’ data secure. An unencrypted memory stick, containing personal information relating to 107 Isle of Man residents and 53 individuals from Northern Ireland, was lost on the Isle of Man in August 2011. Some of the information was sensitive and related to individuals’ care and mental health.

The device has not been recovered. However, Praxis has informed all affected individuals about the loss and no complaints have been received by the regulators.

The company has now committed to making sure that all portable devices used to store personal data are encrypted. Any personal information that is no longer needed will also be disposed of securely in line with the company’s updated data security guidance.

“Carrying people’s personal information around on an unencrypted memory stick is clearly unacceptable,” said Christopher Graham, UK Information Commissioner. “The fact that some of the personal details stored on the device were out of date and so surplus to requirements makes this breach all the more concerning.

“The ICO will continue to work closely with other data protection regulators where it is clear that a data breach extends across national boundaries,” said Iain McDonald, Isle of Man Data Protection Supervisor.

“Today’s joint action aims to send a clear message to organisations that a lax attitude to data security will not be tolerated by either the ODPS or the ICO. We will continue to work with regulators in other countries to ensure that our residents’ personal information is protected.”

A further undertaking has also been signed by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). The undertaking — agreed with the ICO — follows the loss of up to 30 membership forms on a train in May. The organisation didn’t have a policy in place for handling personal data outside of the office at the time of the incident. The CIPR has now agreed to review its new data protection policy and make sure that it is communicated to staff by the end of February.

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