Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (”the Trust”) inadvertently published confidential data about 6,574 members of staff, including their National Insurance number, date of birth, religious belief and sexual orientation, on their website in March 2014. The Trust failed to notice the mistake for 10 months – and then took a further five months to alert affected staff.
Stephen Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said:
“This trust played fast and loose with the highly sensitive and private information that was entrusted to them. It seems they ignored their duty to put rules in place to protect staff. The fact that the error went unnoticed for so long beggars belief.”
The information was volunteered by staff as part of the Trust’s commitment to publish annual equality and diversity metrics on its website. But the Trust failed to notice that the published spreadsheets also contained hidden data that became visible by simply double-clicking the table. This is how the personal details of individual members of staff were revealed.
The Trust was fined £185,000 by the ICO.
This is not the first time the ICO has fined an organisation for inadvertently publishing hidden data. Torbay NHS Trust (July 2012) and Islington Council (August 2013) both received penalties for similar mistakes.