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Greater Manchester cops pay out for data loss

by on17 October 2012

A lesser Manchester would not have done been caught

Red-faced Greater Manchester coppers have had to write a cheque for £120,000 after a privacy watchdog snarled at them for losing a thumb drive.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) took a bite out of Not so Great Manchester coppers for failing to take appropriate measures against the loss of personal data. According to Computing, a inquiry into the force's data protection practices was launched after a memory stick containing personal details about thousands of people linked to police operations was nicked  from an copper's house in July 2011. While the data was top secret, for some reason the thumb drive had no password protection.

The ICO's jaw dropped when it discovered Greater Manchester Police force regularly used unencrypted memory sticks, presumably because they could not remember their passwords. USB devices may also have been used to copy data from police computers for officers to have a look at when they were away from the station.

It was not as if the Not so Greater Manchester police had not been warned about the dangers of this sort of thing. There was a similar security breach in September 2010. Manchester Police were supposed to put restrictions on downloading information and that staff should have received training in proper data protection.

ICO deputy commissioner David Smith said that this was sensitive personal data, left in the hands of a burglar by poor data security. “It should have been obvious to the force that the type of information stored on its computers meant proper data security was needed. Instead, it has taken a serious data breach to prompt it into action," he said.

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