ODPA confirms data breaches still at low levels, mostly accidental

Published: 20 November 2020

THIRTY-FOUR personal data breaches were reported to the 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.’

This release is part of the bi-monthly breach report statistics the ODPA has been issuing since June 2018.

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.

Breach categories explained 
The ODPA individually assesses each breach reported to them and assigns them to one of the eleven categories listed below. Nine of the 11 categories specify whether a breach in that category would normally be considered ‘accidental’ or ‘deliberate’. One of the 11 categories (‘cyber incidents’) can be either accidental or deliberate. It should be noted that breaches categorised as ‘deliberate’ are not necessarily considered to be malicious.

  1. Loss of data/paperwork/device (accidental) 
  2. Data sent to incorrect recipient – email (accidental) 
  3. Data sent to incorrect recipient – post (accidental) 
  4. Data sent to incorrect recipient – fax (accidental) 
  5. Inappropriate access (accidental) 
  6. Inappropriate disclosure (accidental) 
  7. System error (accidental) 
  8. Cyber incidents (accidental or deliberate)
  9. Unauthorised access (deliberate)
  10. Unauthorised disclosure 
  11. Other