ICO fines Newham Council £145,000 for gang data gaffe

Details about 200 supposed gang members were leaked via Snapchat

Data loss fine

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined Newham Council 145,000 for inadvertently releasing the details of 200 people residing in its area who featured on a police database with a link to gang crime.

The details were disclosed from the Metropolitan Police Service Gangs Matrix database when an employee sent the personal details in an attachment to 44 recipients, with both redacted and unredacted versions of the data.

Those on the email list were members of the council's Youth Offending Team as well as external parties, such as voluntary agencies tasked with tackling youth crime.

"We recognise there is a national concern about violent gang crime and the importance of tackling it," said James Dipple-Johnstone, deputy commissioner. "We also recognise the challenges of public authorities in doing this. Appropriate sharing of information has its part to play in this challenge but it must be done lawfully and safely."

Personal details including dates of birth, home addresses and other information such as whether they were known to carry a firearm and which gang they were supposedly part of.

Rival gang members were able to access the unredacted version of the information, including photographs on the Snapchat social messaging platform.

Following the data breach, a number of serious gang-related violence cases were reported in the Newham area, featuring the gang members included in the Gangs Matrix.

Although the ICO couldn't comment on whether these attacks were facilitated by the information shared from the confidential database, it does highlight that if information such as this is leaked it can cause significant harm and damage.

"Our investigation concluded that it was unnecessary, unfair and excessive for Newham Council to have shared the unredacted database with a large number of people and organisations, when a redacted version was readily available," Dipple-Johnstone added. "The risks associated with such a transfer of sensitive information should have been obvious."

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