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You could be in line for data breach compensation worth thousands if your data held by a government body or authorised third party has been affected by a data breach

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What is a Government data breach?

A data breach, in general, is when access to protected data is obtained by unauthorised personnel. Government and other associated bodies and organisations, such as local authorities, government agencies, government contractors, MPs, civil servants hold sensitive, personal and financial information about members of the public, which they are obliged to securely protect and only share with authorised persons.

When this data is accessed or shared with unauthorised people, this amounts to a data breach. A breach could be something as straightforward as a person ringing up a government body and being able to access your information by pretending to be you (because the security checks were inadequate). Another circumstance might be through an email where your data, or even sensitive personal information, is sent to someone it was not intended for, who is not authorised to view it. The Data Protection Act exists to mandate a level of required security to protect your personal data.

How do Government Data Breaches Happen?

Mostly, government bodies and third party contractors will have a higher standard of security, and yet, data breaches still happen due to several different factors:

Human Error – The vast majority of all data breaches, both through the government and businesses, is through human error. Examples include inadequate security procedures, such as failing to confirm the identity of a person you are speaking to, or an employee responding to a phishing email disguised as their work, or through clicking a link that they believe is genuine.

Poor internal security & procedures – Procedures for handling and storing data should be robust and ensure that internal staff know their responsibilities as well as having the right security systems in place to protect data, especially from malicious cyber attacks. Where this falls short, breaches can result.

Cyber Attack – Cyber attacks from hackers exploiting vulnerabilities are sometimes the cause of the breach. Their goals vary, and are not always about fraud for financial gain but rather to cause confusion, panic, inconvenience and embarrassment caused by highlighting the government’s failure to adequately protect people’s data.

Third-Party Security – Sometimes, the government gives your data to other companies that don’t have the same level of security as they do. It’s then that data can sometimes be lost if data protection procedures are not up to scratch.

Can I Make a Claim for a Government Data Breach?

Yes, you can, and you should if your data has been compromised. Government bodies, including local councils, are responsible for your security, and making a claim or joining a group action claim is one of the ways to ensure future breaches in the public sector do not happen or are mitigated as much as possible.

It’s illegal by law for the government to neglect to inform you if your data has potentially been exposed. Usually, there is a time limit of 24 hours after a breach has been discovered. Going over that without very good reason (such as the reveal somehow being considered to pose a greater threat to others) could result in even harsher penalties being imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

If you find that you’ve had a breach in data, get in contact with us today. Regardless of whether or not you’ve suffered financial loss, you can still claim for non-material damage, such as stress and inconvenience. We will make sure you have the best possible representation by putting you in touch with our data breach claim partners, comprised of SRA-approved firms that operate on a no-win no-fee basis. There is absolutely no risk to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

UK Government departments and agencies often hold highly sensitive information, so it is a serious matter when this data’s safety is compromised. Aside from posing a risk to individuals or putting them at financial risk, data breaches from government departments can even be a risk to national security, with cyber espionage a real threat.

There are many public services offered by both central and local government that require personal data to be stored by authorised bodies. This can involve an array of different information, from basic address details to financial information to sensitive data relating to medical matters, or even child or safeguarding issues.

Authorised public sector staff and third parties will be allowed to access this information in the course of doing their work, but there should be a series of robust security processes and procedures in place to ensure this is kept safe and secure. Where this is not adhered to, or when a human error has occurred, or even hackers have exploited vulnerabilities, this can result in data breaches that can have highly significant consequences, especially when sensitive information has been involved.

Government agencies and other connected bodies have a responsibility to ensure that your data is secure, and when they fail in this duty, you could be able to claim compensation. Not only does bringing a claim bring compensation for any financial loss of significant distress caused by the data breach, but it also forces the government and associated bodies and any third party contractor authorised to access that data to take action and improve their security systems and procedures.
Third parties that handle data on behalf of the government or other similar bodies also have a responsibility to ensure that data is adequately protected. Political parties, for example, hold data regarding their members that members wouldn’t necessarily want to be made public. In 2021 the Labour Party suffered a breach following a ransomware attack on data held by a third party which rendered the data inaccessible.

Why use us for your government data breach claim?

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Data breach experts

We use dedicated data breach solicitors who have handled thousands of data breach claims

Peter is a solicitor who has worked as a professional litigator for 3 years. More recently Peter has specialised in data breach compensation claims and over the last 2.5 years has gained a wealth of knowledge in this sector. Peter now works with us to share his knowledge and inform the general public.

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