NAID study shows over 40% of London’s commercial rubbish bins contained highly confidential personal details.
When Members of Parliament throw out personal information they get headlines. However, it turns out that casual disposal of personal data is “business-as-usual” for many London-area institutions.
LONDON, UK – According to a study commissioned by National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), the casual disposal of extremely sensitive personal information is a common practice for a significant portion of London-area organisations.
In a month-long study, private investigators examined the contents of the city’s publicly accessible commercial trash bins in an effort to determine the amount of personal information present there.
Included among the targets were a number of London-area hospitals, law offices, bank headquarters and branch offices, as well as government agencies.
The study was commissioned by NAID to determine whether or not the recently escalated data protection fines, now at £500,000, and the ongoing publicity about the dangers of identity theft were being taken seriously.
The instructions to the investigators were quite explicit. They were not to go to extraordinary lengths or breach any laws when examining the trash. We hired them to simply look in the bin to see what any passerby might find.
Overall, 44% of the institutions, each with a legal burden to protect personal information, were found to be casually discarding personal information.
AMONG THE FINDINGS:
• A leading private hospital was found to have discarded the medical records of 70 vulnerable patients – including their names, addresses and details of their treatment.
• Outside a top London law office, a 20-page document, detailing the case of a young woman with mental health problems and currently in foster care, was found on the pavement in a trash bag. All four of the law firms whose commercial garbage was subject to investigation were found to have personal client details in their trash.
• Outside a national drug store chain, the trash was found to contain over 20 prescription labels including details such as patients’ names, addresses, and details of the medication prescribed. Some also included doctors’ names, dates of birth of patients and information on future requirements for medication.
Three weeks ago Vince Cable was forced to publicly apologise when documents were found left beside a low wall outside the Business Secretary’s constituency headquarters each week in plastic bags for recycling.
And several weeks prior, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister, was forced to apologise after being photographed dumping similar papers in public waste bins in London’s St James’s Park.
NAID reports they are not releasing the names of the organisations that were subject to the investigation.