Thirty four personal data breaches were reported to Guernsey’s Office of the Data Protection Authority (ODPA) in the two months leading up to 31 October 2020, the vast majority of which were classified as accidental.
Overall, from the latest statistics, 26, or 75% of the breaches related either to data sent to the incorrect recipient by email or post and the total is consistent with previous reporting periods. Of the 11 possible categories devised by the ODPA, the remaining eight were classified as cyber incidents, inappropriate access or inappropriate disclosure.
The 34 were from a range of sectors, including six from retail/wholesale, a similar number from fiduciary entities, three from charities/not for profit and the remaining 19 spread across 11 other sectors.
The Bailiwick’s Data Protection Commissioner, Emma Martins, observed that although the number of errors remains relatively low, all parties still have something to learn. “The publication of information relating to the number and nature of personal data breaches is important. It ensures that we are all part of an honest approach when things go wrong and it also helps us to better understand the areas of risk which in turn can help us focus on preventing them in the future. It continues to be the case that accidental sending of data to the wrong person is the most common type of breach reported to us. What we can take from that is the knowledge that it is absolutely something we can all play a positive and important role in reducing. We will never eliminate human error, but we should not underestimate the impact having robust systems and processes, together with comprehensive staff awareness and training programmes can have in mitigating those risks.”
Mrs Martins added: “It is also important to remember that for each of these breaches, the personal information of one or more individuals is likely to have been compromised. Our aim in raising awareness and encouraging a focus on making improvements is to ensure we all do as much as we can to protect people from those harms. I would take this opportunity to once again thank our local regulated community for their engagement in this breach reporting requirement; it continues to have a direct and meaningful impact on raising the standards of data governance for the Bailiwick.”
Statutory breach reporting was one of the key changes to the local data protection law introduced in May 2018. The Data Protection (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2017 (section 42) states that organisations are legally required to notify the ODPA of any personal data breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of it.
The list below shows the number of personal data breaches reported to the ODPA (each is for the two month period to the date):
- 31 October 2020 – 34
- 31 August 2020 – 21
- 30 June 2020 – 34
- 30 April 2020 – 30
- 29 February 2020 – 28
- 28 December 2019 – 48
- 27 October 2019 – 44
- 26 August 2019 – 32
- 25 June 2019 – 50
- 22 April 2019 – 40
- 22 February 2019 – 45
- 18 December 2018 – 28
- 18 October 2018 – 26
What is a breach?
A personal data breach is defined in section 111(1) of the Law as any incident that meets the following criteria:
“a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed”.
There will likely be a breach whenever any personal data is accidentally lost, corrupted or disclosed, or if someone accesses it or passes it on without proper authorisation to do so.
However, organisations do not have to report any incidents that meet the above criteria if the incident is ‘unlikely’ to result in a risk to the ‘significant interests’ of any person whose data has been affected by the incident. It can be difficult, and sometimes inappropriate, for organisations themselves to judge whether there is a risk to a person’s significant interests, so the ODPA encourages all incidents to be reported.
‘Significant interests’ explained
A person’s ‘significant interests’ are defined in the local Law as any aspect of their life that could be put at risk due to their personal data being breached. This could include their physical safety, their reputation, and could extend to placing them at risk of identity theft, fraud, financial loss, psychological distress or humiliation.