Tag Archives: dpa

NHS … patient data … what’s next?

According to the ICO, there were 388 data breaches relating to health data in the first nine months of 2013.  That is 34% of all the data breaches in the UK during the same period, and the proportion has increased from 27% at the end of March to 38% by the end of September 2013.  The chart below compares the number data breach levels by industry sector over the same period.  Given the sensitivity of the health data held by medical organisations in this country, those are shocking statistics.Data breaches by sector to Sept 30 2013

Centralised medical records database

Despite this poor track record, very soon the NHS is going to combine all our medical records into one massive database. Every GP practice in the UK will shortly begin to disclose their patients’ personal and sensitive data to care.data at the Health and Social Care information Centre (HSCIC).  The process is monthly, automatic, and assumes patient consent unless patients actively opt out – which is not necessarily a simple process.

nhs databaseSo what does this mean to patients?  Essentially, personal confidential data (PCD) such as family history, vaccinations, diagnoses, referrals, blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol and NHS prescriptions and more will be extracted from GP systems and shared with care.data.

In order to match data from the GP surgeries with data acquired by the HSCIC from other sources (such as hospitals) identifying data such as data of birth, postcode, NHS number and gender will be included within the data extracts.  Once matched across all the data sources, the data is pseudonymised (ie identifying characteristics are removed).

Once an individual is flagged as “deceased” no further data will be collected – though the data already provided will continue to be processed by the HSCIC.

medical data chartsWhat are the benefits?

If it were possible to trust the security and intentions of those collecting the data, there are some fantastic potential benefits, for example improved patient care; the effective prevention, treatment and management of illness; hospital performance, management of NHS resources; or the analysis and understanding of specific treatment benefits; even planning new health services.

What are the risks?

The poor track record of the NHS in terms of protecting our medical data is alarming and raises concerns over confidentiality of our medical records.  In addition, there are increasing numbers of private companies who provide services to the NHS, from physiotherapists to care homes; from private hospitals to insurance companies.  Members of the public are likely to be uneasy about private companies benefiting from their health data, and equally concerned that their GP will no longer be the “gatekeeper” of their confidential medical data.

Furthermore, although the data will be pseudonymised, single-minded analysts may undoubtedly try and will probably succeed to some degree in finding a way of matching the data against other commercial data sets to “re-identify” the individuals.

Who can use the data?

The data can be released for five listed reasons:  health intelligence, health improvement, audit, health service research and service planning. That’s a pretty broad spectrum, and it is evident that the number and range of potential customers for this centralised database of our medical records is enormous.

For example, how long it will be before insurers persuade the HSCIC that it is to the benefit of the health and social care system that they should model and predict medical claims rates based on the UK’s centralised medical database, and use the findings to price their medical insurance policies accordingly.

Can GP practices opt out?

Doctor Data ControllerThe Health and Social Care Act 2012 creates a statutory obligation for GP practices to disclose the information as directed.  GPs are unable to refuse to do so as such refusal would put them in breach of the statutory requirement.

But because the GP practice is actually the “data controller” of their patients’ confidential medical records, GP practices are also responsible for ensuring that their patients’ personal and sensitive data is handled fairly (as defined under the Data Protection Act 1998).

So it is up to GPs to ensure that patients are aware that their data will be shared with the HSCIC, that the HSCIC has powers to extract personal confidential data, and, arguably, what the HSCIC intends to do with the data.

And if a patient claims they were unaware that their data was to be shared, it would be the GP practice who would be investigated by the ICO.

The GP practices remain data controllers of the data they hold within the practice, but are no longer responsible for the data once it has been disclosed to the HSCIC.  Instead the HSCIC and NHS England become joint data controllers who are obliged to comply with the Data Protection Act.  NHS England will determine the “Purpose” for the data collection, while the HSCIC will determine the manner of processing.

How do patients opt out?

Normally one would expect the sharing of data of this sensitivity and confidentiality to be subject to patient opt-in, rather than the NHS assuming consent.  However, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 empowers the HSCIC to require providers (eg your GP practice) to send it personal confidential data when directed to do so.  And the Act overrides the requirement to seek patient consent.

A patient can inform their GP of their wish to opt out, and no reason is required.  It is worth noting that the right to opt out has been implemented as a constitutional rather than a legal right.  Having opted out, it is up to the GP practice to ensure that the right code is appended to the legal record.

However, the patient has no right to prevent his or her medical data leaving the GP practice if such data carries no identifiable information as this is anonymous data rather than personal data.  The question, really, is what is “identifiable information”?  It is DOB? Arguably in some circumstances, it may be.  And surely an NHS number is identifiable information.

The Secretary of State for Health has given a commitment that individuals’ objections to disclosure ot the HSCIC will be respected in “all but exceptional circumstance” (for example, a civil emergency).

Is the process compliant?

You could argue that this data sharing activity defies the second principle of the Data Protection Act:  “Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with the purpose or those purposes”.  In my view, you don’t talk to your doctor about a medical condition for any purpose other than to have him solve – or try to solve the problem for you.  And while that may include prescriptions, or visits to consultants, hospitals and clinics, making our medical records data available to commercial organisations cannot possibly be considered the “Purpose”.

Data Compliance October Round-up

What’s happening in Europe … and beyond?iStock_000025602036Small

Update 28.10.13

The new date for implementation of a proposed new data protection regulation (DPR) – has been pushed back to “by 2015”, thanks in part to David Cameron’s efforts to protect the interests of UK business.  Germany were also supportive though Merkel’s reasoning was slightly different “… to ensure that it can reconcile the existing rights of its citizens.”

23.10.13

On 21st October, 2013, the European Parliament approved its Compromise Text of the proposed EU General Data Protection Regulation.  Still a long way from being complete, but the latest from Europe is:

1. Pseudonymous data now has its own definition – currently “personal data that cannot be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of additional information, as long as such additional information is kept separately and subject to technical and organisational measures to ensure non-attribution”.

2. Data Protection Officers:  a data controller or processor must appoint a Data Protection Officer when processing personal data relation to over 5,000 data subjects in any consecutive 12-month period.  Also where the core processing activities relate to processing location data, children’s data, sensitive personal data, or employees in large scale filing systems.

3.  A new concept has been introduced – a European Data Protection Seal -a certification process which allows international data transfers outside the EEA to recipients that also hold a Seal.

4.  Right to erasure:  the right of data subjects to have their personal data erased if requested is still in the draft (originally “right to be forgotten”).  And it’s been strengthened – if the data subject asks a controller to erase his data, the company should also forward the request to others where the data is replicated.

Pulling NSA’s teeth …

Spheres of monitors with eyeballs in a curved field of blue digiThe Compromise text had some other changes, including new data protection rules designed to curb America’s spying activities.  The intention is to make US secret court orders powerless, and to force companies based outside the EU, like Google and Facebook, to comply with European data protection laws if they operate in Europe.  Powers to levy fines running into billions of Euros are being made available to discourage violation of the new rules.

For example, if a third country’s court, tribunal or other administrative authority requests a company (such as a social network or cloud provider) to disclose personal data processed in the EU, that company must notify the data protection authority and obtain their authorisation before any such data transfer can be made.

This step is largely due to Edward Snowden’s information about the American companies, platforms and social networking sites which have been forced to share substantial volumes of EU citizens’ personal online data (from emails and phone calls to video chats and web searches) with the National Security Agency (the US intelligence organisation which collects, monitors, decodes, translates and analyses foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information and data).

The third country issue has been ongoing since January 2012, when the proposed reform to the law was dropped after intense US lobbying.  It now seems clear that the EU has had enough, particularly since the revelations that the NSA systems collected – in the single month from February 8th to March 8th – 24.8 billion telephone data and 97.1 billion computer data from across the globe – including UK, Germany and France.

In addition the French are aggrieved that, from December 2012 to January 2013, the NSA were reported to have made 70.3 million recordings of French individuals’ telephone data.

While the NSA is known to collect and store all phone records of all American citizens, their profligate global approach to privacy is clearly unacceptable, and Europe has taken steps to limit their – and other agencies and countries’ – powers.

So now it’s just the simple matter of balancing the need to combat terrorism versus people’s protection of the rights to privacy.  Which makes it hardly surprising that this legislation is taking so long with a record-breaking 4,000 amendments so far.  It is thought that there is a less than 50% chance of the new regulations going through in the time-frame, though final legislation is still anticipated before the European elections in May 2014.

India’s Draft Privacy Protection Bill

Abstract internet security illustrationThe issue of data protection in India has been generated for a number of reasons – not least, Europe’s concerns given the sheer volume of personal data that is transferred to India.  Also, within India itself, there is concern among Indian citizens in relation to the combination of the use of personal identifiers (including biometric data) and extensive individual profiles.

India has been holding a set of roundtable talks since April 2013, with the goal of generating recommendations for a privacy regulatory framework.  The last of those talks was held on October 19th between the Center for Internet and Society, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Data Security Council of India. Christopher Graham, the UK Information Commissioner, was among the speakers.

We’ll send more updates as they come through – in the meantime, if you have any concerns over how these or the existing DPA and PECR regulations might affect your business, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Victoria Tuffill
01787 277742
victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
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Michelle Evans
01206 392909
michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk

Data Compliance October Round-up UK

Meanwhile, back in the UK …

Telephone iconTelemarketing – Caller identification spoofing …

Earlier this week, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement making it clear that they intend to combine their resources to tackle the problem of caller ID spoofing.

Spoofing is a practice conducted by telemarketers who want to conceal their true identity rather than fulfil their legal obligation to identify themselves.  Spoofers provide their caller ID with false information which may be a string of digits, or a random or stolen number belonging to a real person or organisation.   It is on the increase, and makes it particularly difficult for the authorities to track down those responsible for non-compliant or illegal calls.

The various agencies responsible for enforcing telemarketing and privacy laws announced that they will coordinate their efforts through the international law enforcement network of the London Action Plan and the International Do Not Call Network. If they need the telecoms industry to provide help, they will ask those organisations within their respective countries.

Next steps are exploratory discussions, to be held later this month, to identify options focusing on enforcement, industry compliance and consumer education, technology and regulatory issues with the goal of considering solutions available to stop spoofing and to take action against those responsible.

DATA BREACHES AND FINES

What a monumental blunder …

iStock_000012526327SmallWe heard yesterday that The Ministry of Justice was on the receiving end of the ICO’s judgement, when it received a fine of £140,000 – after details of ALL the prisoners serving time at HMP Cardiff were emailed to three of the inmates’ families.

The fine goes back to 2011 – when, on 2nd August, the recipients received an email from a prison clerk which included a file containing details of the 1,182 inmates – including names, ethnicity, addresses, length of sentence, release dates, and the offence codes.  Worse yet – this wasn’t the first time such a breach had occurred.  Within the previous four weeks, the same error occurred twice – with details sent to different inmates’ families.

The ICO’s investigation found:

  • Clear lack of management and supervision at the prison, where the clerk concerned was found to have received limited training and experience, though he was left to work unsupervised.
  • Audit trails were lacking and the only reason the breach was identified was because one of the recipients reported receipt of the information to the prison.
  • Problems with the methods used to handle the prisoners’ records, such as the use of unencrypted floppy discs to transfer large volumes of data between networks

 

The importance of being registered …

handcuffs and money computerIf organisations process personal data, with a very few exceptions, they must register with the ICO and spell out the type of information they process.  Not doing so is a criminal offence – as Hamed Shabani, sole director of payday loan company First Financial, discovered.

After failing to register, he and his company were prosecuted by the ICO and convicted in the Magistrate’s Court. As Director of the company, he was fined a modest £150 and ordered to pay £1,010.66 towards the costs of prosecution and a £20 victims’ surcharge.  In addition, the company itself was fined £500, and also made to pay £1,010.66 towards costs plus a £50 victims’ surcharge.

The total bill of £2,741.32 compares rather unfavourably against the annual £35 notification fee he should have paid.  It is also interesting to note that Hamed Shabani tried to remove his name from the company’s registration at Companies House in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

To quote Stephen Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement:

“Pay day loans companies hold important information about some of the most financially vulnerable people in the UK. This makes this company and its director’s decision not to face up to their legal responsibilities all the more concerning.

“Businesses must commit to looking after the information of their customers and this begins with making sure that they are registered. We will continue to use our enforcement powers to safeguard people’s information.”

 The importance of a strong BYOD policy …

mobile commerceBYOD (Bring your own device) continues to be high on the ICO’s priority list – earlier this month, the Royal Veterinary College breached the DPA when a member of staff lost their camera whose memory card held 6 job applicant passport pictures. Unfortunately, the RVC had not briefed staff on how personal information stored for work should be looked after on personal devices.

Nearly half of all UK employees now use their smartphones, tablets, PCs for work purposes, and the number is growing.  As a result, organisations must update their data protection policies to take this into account.

Stephen Eckersley said:

“Organisations must be aware of how people are now storing and using personal information for work and the Royal Veterinary College failed to do this. It is clear that more and more people are now using a personal device, particularly their mobile phones and tablets, for work purposes so its crucial employers are providing guidance and training to staff which covers this use.”

The importance of encryption …

thief stealing laptop from the carIf you are unlucky enough to have a portable device containing personal data stolen, it could cost you much more than simply replacing the device.  As the owner of loans company Jala Transport discovered to his cost.  He stopped his car at a set of traffic lights, only to have his car boot broken into. A hard drive – containing financial details of his 250 customers – was stolen, along with £3,600 cash.

Though the hard drive was password protected, the data within was not encrypted, and it included customers’ names, dates of birth, the payments made, and the identity documents provided to support the loan application.  Because the hard drive had not been encrypted, all those customers were left  wide open to the threat of identity theft.

The penalty could have been £70,000, but was reduced to £5,000 to reflect the limited financial resources of the company and the fact that the breach was reported voluntarily.

Stephen Eckersley said of this case:

“We have continued to warn organisations of all sizes that they must encrypt any personal data stored on portable devices, where the loss of the information could cause clear damage and distress to the customers affected…

 “The penalty will have a real impact on this business and should act as a warning to all businesses owners that they must take adequate steps to keep customers’ information secure.”

Rates of identity fraud continue to rise

Identity fraud is the most significant threat facing the UK, making security a key issue not only for businesses but also for individuals.  Not taking steps to protect personal data just gives fraudsters a license to steal.   This is clearly illustrated by the stats – identity fraud now accounts for over half of all committed fraud and is still growing.  CIFAS confirmed 114,000 frauds in the first half of 201, of which 52% involved impersonation or fake identity details.  An additional 14% of frauds involved account takeover.

All the stories above reflect the importance of being and remaining data compliant and illustrate the penalties that can be imposed by the ICO.  If you would like any advice on how to become and remain compliant, just call us for a no-obligation chat.

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Victoria Tuffill
01787 277742
victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
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Michelle Evans
01206 392909
michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk

Data Compliance – Monthly Round-Up

September 2013 Round-up

Information Commissioner toughens up Direct Marketing Guidelines

data compliance consentThis month the ICO has published new guidelines for direct marketers, with a particular emphasis on consent.  Those companies who make it difficult for their customers to find the “small print” run the risk of finding their so-called consent is invalid.  Essentially the ICO is looking to tighten up current consent policies, by, for example, putting tighter time limits on the period covered by consent, ensuring that the customer is not forced into consenting as part of any service policy.  Users of personal data are going to need to get used to a greater transparency and trust between themselves and their customers.  It is likely that a more creative approach to obtaining consent will be required – such as an explanation of the benefits designed to appeal to the consumer.

Third party use of data is going to become increasingly difficult too, with the onus put on the user for evidence that consent really has been given to the list provider (see Steve’s article on email marketing success).

If you are concerned that you are not entirely certain what is needed to keep your future campaigns compliant, then contact Victoria – victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk

Unsolicited direct marketing calls – the penalties

telemarketingThe Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is clamping down on businesses who make unsolicited direct marketing calls.  The law currently requires the ICO to prove that calls or texts are causing substantial damage or substantial distress before issuing a penalty to the perpetrator.  The ICO is now asking the government to reduce the degree of harm that needs to be proven – the aim is that an investigation would have to simply prove annoyance or nuisance before acting.

The ICO routinely collects data from complaints both to their own office and to TPS, which helps identify organisations who may cause concern.

As a result of that activity, in the first quarter of 2013, the ICO issued their first fine for making unsolicited live marketing calls.  DM Design, was fined £90,000.  In the last quarter the ICO has issued two further monetary penalty notices for making unsolicited calls – against Nationwide Energy Services (£125,000 penalty) and We Claim you Gain (£100,000 penalty) – not insubstantial amounts.

The main topics of cold marketing calls are still PPI, then Energy / Green energy and Accident claims.  These are closely followed by debt management.

Automated calls can be made from outside the UK, in which case the steps to be taken against those companies making the calls are obviously limited.

It is clear that the ICO is determined to make it very plain to all companies and organisations using (or selling) data for marketing purposes, that they must follow the law.

They select a number of companies for monitoring based on the complaints they – and TPS receive. They then review the complaints levels – and it’s amazing what a little fear can do to make even quite large companies adjust their thinking in this area.  For example, Talk Talk saw a massive 75% reduction in complaints in the nine months of monitoring; British Gas a 59% reduction in complaints over the same period; while Scottish Power complaints were reduced by 30%.

If you have any concerns over how to ensure your telemarketing is compliant, please contact Victoria – victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk

Encryption: do you understand the  options available and how you can use them?

data protection encryptionThe Data Protection Act requires organisations that are storing personal information electronically to have appropriate measures in place to keep the information secure. If the loss of this information would cause damage and distress to those affected then the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) expect the information to be encrypted.

If it isn’t, then an organisation is not keeping the information secure and leaving themselves open to possible enforcement action. Penalties totalling £700,000 have so far been issued to organisations who have failed to properly encrypt their data.

So it’s definitely worth looking at the different types of encryption available and making them work for your organisation.  If you are thinking about the need for encryption but don’t fully understand the different options available to you, then do contact Tony at tony@tuffillverner.co.uk

Subject access requests – failure to comply can be costly

Keyboard -  blue key AccessFollowing the publication last month of the Subject Access Code of Practice, the handling of subject access requests is becoming increasingly important.  After a complaint from a member of the public, action has been taken against Cardiff City Council systemic failures leading to the inability for the council to respond to individuals’ subject access requests within the 40 day time limit.

So it’s worth noting the importance of tightening up procedures and making sure staff are properly trained to handle such requests in compliance with the DPA.

If you are unclear of your obligations and would like advice on the matter, do contact michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk

Do your employees work from home?  Or use a smartphone?

istock multi media croppedIt is well worth reviewing the measures you have in place to make sure personal information being accessed and used by home workers is being kept secure.  It is now becoming increasingly popular for individuals to work from home, and to access data via tablets and smartphones.

Aberdeen City Council has just been served with a penalty of £100,000 after sensitive personal information relating to the care of vulnerable children was inadvertently posted online by one of their home workers. The information was freely available for a three-month period before a council employee spotted it and the information was taken down.

An investigation found that the council had no means of monitoring how personal information was being accessed and used by their home workers and, worse yet, provided no guidance to help people working from home keep personal information secure.

So do make sure you follow the guidelines, especially if your employees are using smartphones and other personal devices to access personal data outside the office.  If you’d like some information on the sorts of measures you should be taking, please contact Michelle – michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk

New teaching materials will help young people to take control of their information

Great news that the ICO has published new teaching materials for schools to help teachers explain to young people the importance of looking after their personal information.  Especially since a 2011 survey showed that, although 9 out of 10 secondary school pupils were using a social networking website, 60% paid no attention to that website’s privacy policy.

The educational material has been developed by teachers and tailored to specific areas of the curriculum with a focus on helping youngsters understand the value and importance of their personal information and teaching them how they can look after it.

No surprise after Leveson consultation that the Press is deemed to need further guidance on conduct and ethics

Last year’s Leveson Inquiry provided a number of recommendations relating to the conduct and ethics of the press. The most high-profile recommendation for the ICO office was that it should better educate the press about their legal obligations under the DPA.

A consultation was launched in March to find out stakeholder’s views on a potential code of practice to explain the law as it stands. Responses were received from several media companies, individuals, regulators and representative bodies. The responses have raised concerns that any new code of practice would cause confusion with the existing editor’s code!

Tuffill Verner Associates provides data compliance advice – if you have any concerns or are unclear on a particular issue, just drop us an email or give us a call.

victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk   01787 277742 / 07967 148398

michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk   01206 392909 / 07760 257427