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Departmental Data Protection

Volume 487: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many members of staff in his Department have been (a) investigated, (b) suspended and (c) dismissed for losing (i) memory sticks, (ii) laptop computers, (iii) desktop computers and (iv) mobile telephones belonging to his Department in each year since 1997. (248247)

In the past two years, no member of the Department’s staff has been investigated, suspended or dismissed for losing departmental information technology equipment or confidential information.

Prior to April 2006, the human resources records of the Department were not held centrally and it would incur disproportionate cost to establish the information requested. Policy and procedures on security are constantly reviewed. Data held on the Department’s laptops and portable media devices, including memory sticks are encrypted to minimise the risk of confidential data being compromised should the devices be lost or stolen.

The Department has strict rules on data protection and security of its assets which the Department is expected to adhere to. Its policy and procedures are constantly reviewed and cases of losses or thefts are investigated. All mobile equipment reported as lost or stolen is registered on the police mobile equipment national database to aid recovery.

Security cables have been purchased and supplied to mobile workers to secure valuable portable assets to furniture where practicable to reduce risks. The Department marks its portable equipment with an invisible forensic dye called Smartwater. The Department’s security and assurance unit continues to raise security awareness and physical protection of IT equipment among its staff.

Mobile phones and Blackberrys are deactivated centrally if reported lost or stolen.

Disciplinary action where staff are in breach of the Department’s rules for data protection and security of its assets (including negligent loss of equipment) are as follows:

Written reprimand;

Dismissal without notice;

Dismissal with notice;

Disciplinary transfer;

Withdrawal or withholding performance-related pay;

Levying of financial penalty;

Ban on applying for posts; and

Demotion.