Reporting Data Breaches to the Information Commissioner

Not all organisation data breaches get reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

ICO do recommend that any serious breach is reported to them, but it isn’t mandatory and ‘serious breaches’ are not defined. However, the following should assist data controllers in considering whether breaches should be reported:

 

  1. The potential detriment to individuals is the overriding consideration in deciding whether a breach of data security should be reported to the ICO. Detriment includes emotional distress as well as both physical and financial damage.

Ways in which detriment can occur include:

  • exposure to identity theft through the release of non-public identifiers, eg passport number
  • information about the private aspects of a person’s life becoming known to others, eg financial circumstances

The extent of detriment likely to occur is dependent on both the volume of personal data involved and the sensitivity of the data where there is significant actual or potential detriment as a result of the breach.

Where there is little risk that individuals would suffer significant detriment, for example because a stolen laptop is properly encrypted or the information that is the subject of the breach is publicly-available information, there is no need to report.

  1. The volume of personal data lost / released / corrupted: There should be a presumption to report to the ICO where a large volume of personal data is concerned and there is a real risk of individuals suffering some harm.
  2. The sensitivity of the data lost / released / corrupted:

How to Report a Breach

Serious breaches should be reported to the ICO using the DPA security breach helpline on 0303 123 1113 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm). Select option 3 to speak to staff that will record the breach and give you advice about what to do next or report in writing using the  DPA security breach notification form, which should be sent to the email address casework@ico.org.uk or by post to the office address at:- Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

When a breach is reported, the nature and seriousness of the breach and the adequacy of any remedial action taken will be assessed and a course of action determined.

ICO may:

  • Record the breach and take no further action, or  Investigate the circumstances of the breach and any
  • remedial action, which could lead to further action;
  • Set a requirement on the data controller to undertake a course of action to prevent further breaches;
  • Start formal enforcement action which could lead to a fine of up to £500,000

For further information see https://ico.org.uk

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