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UK councils show shockingly lax attitude to data protection

UK councils show “shockingly lax attitude” to data protection

A staggering 132 councils in England have lost personal data in the past three years, with some confidential information on children being compromised and details even posted on Facebook, an investigation has found.

The review showed a “shockingly lax attitude” to the “protection of confidential information” and data entry.

The alarming figures highlight the need for improved IT recruitment at local government level for more skilled staff in this field. 

According to the statistics, there were 1,035 cases of council data loss between August 2008 and August 2011. Buckinghamshire and Kent councils suffered the greatest losses.

Shockingly, some scanned case notes from Kent Council were even put on Facebook, the Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Big Brother Watch (BBW) found.

Details involving more than 3,000 children and young people were also compromised.

A total of 244 laptops, 98 memory sticks and 93 mobile devices were lost, the investigation found. One UBS stick lost in Birmingham contained information on 64,000 tenants.

Yesterday the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Southwark Council had escaped a fine after leaving personal data on more than 7,000 people in a rubbish skip for 18 months.

Just 55 incidents were reported to the ICO.

"The fact that only a tiny fraction of staff have been dismissed brings into question how seriously managers take protecting the privacy of their service users and local residents,” said BBW director Nick Pickles.

"Despite having access to increasing amounts of data and being responsible for even more services, local authorities are simply not able to say our personal information is safe with them."

Security is a top priority for data specialists, along with accuracy. Those wishing to carve out IT careers in this field should be well aware of this.

Most data entry positions are office-based but there are both full-time and part-time opportunities, including jobs with firms with huge databases, and supervisory roles. Many positions offer flexible working shifts and some are known as IT contract jobs, where employees can gain different experiences in a variety of firms.  

Students interested in a career in IT should concentrate on Mathematics and English, plus computing skills including the New Computer Literacy and Information Technology (New CLAIT) or European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).

There are many specialist data entry and IT courses available. On-the-job training is normally also provided, where employees will learn specific software packages or specialist database technology. 

UK graduates can expect to start on a salary of about &pound11,000, increasing to &pound14,000. This may go up to &pound18,000 after some time, depending on responsibilities.


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