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Data breaches within the legal profession 05/08/2014 The ICO has issued a warning after receiving fifteen recent reports of data breaches involving the legal profession in England and Wales.

Data breaches within the legal profession

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a warning after receiving fifteen recent reports of data breaches involving the legal profession in England and Wales. It has reminded members of the profession to keep personal information secure, especially paper files.

The ICO can serve a monetary penalty of up to £500,000 for a serious breach of the Data Protection Act, provided the incident had the potential to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to affected individuals.

In most cases these penalties are issued to companies or public authorities, but solicitors and barristers are generally classed as data controllers in their own right and are therefore legally responsible for the personal information they process. On top of this, much of the information handled by solicitors is very sensitive.

“The number of breaches reported by barristers and solicitors may not seem that high, but given the sensitive information they handle, and the fact that it is often held in paper files rather than secured by any sort of encryption, that number is troubling,” said Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham. “It is important that we sound the alarm at an early stage to make sure this problem is addressed before a barrister or solicitor is left counting the financial and reputational damage of a serious data breach.”

“We have published some top tips to help barristers and solicitors look after the personal information they handle. These measures will set them on the road to compliance and help them get the basics right,” he said.

The tips will be relevant to Scottish practitioners too, and can be found here. Further advice from the ICO is available here.

 

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