Schools Face Huge Fines for Breaching Data Protection ActSchools can face £500,000 if the Data Protection Act is breached.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has raised the penalty to £5,000 if the data law was not fully upheld.

Schools have become increasing under risk of these penalties due to the fact that infrastructure such as biometrics and electronic filing systems require expensive protection tools.

Partner and head ICT lawyer at Cobbetts firm Susan Hall said that encryption of data was vital.

She told SecEd website: “There have been numerous incidents where schools have had memory sticks or laptops with data about students contained on them stolen or misplaced. When this happens, they are told to tighten their security practices, and with the new fine in place, schools would be well advised to ensure that their security is tight.”

Waseley Hill High School and Sixth Form Centre at Birmingham was caught by the ICO for breaches including the theft of one thousand teaching personnel and pupils’ data.

Hall also said: “Schools could hold all sorts of information that would be classified as ‘sensitive data’ by the ICO. If a teacher is the subject of an internal investigation, then this information may be sensitive. Also, information about students who are known to be using drugs, and other pastoral or disciplinary information, is likely to be highly sensitive.”

Biometric data is also held in educational institutions regarding catering systems which process cash transactions.

Hall added: “If schools fail to act on advice given when they are found to be putting data at risk, then they could find themselves on a slippery slope towards a very large fine.

“Schools need to look at all the systems they have that hold information, and ask what the data is, why it is needed, and whether it could be exploited and used for purposes other than those for which it is intended. Systems need to be put in place to stop the data from being misused.”

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