Fury as confidential documents found blowing in the wind in Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 17:00 07 July 2013

Paul Zukowskyj with documents he found

Paul Zukowskyj with documents he found

Archant

CONFIDENTIAL documents were found blowing in the wind in Hatfield in "an alarming discovery" by a councillor.

The papers, believed to have come from the former county supplies depot in Mount Pleasant Lane, included an employee appraisal form which featured a worker’s name and employment number.

The depot was sold by the County Council around two years ago and buildings on the site are currently being demolished to make way for 116 homes.

A form from former highways contractor Amey, dated November 24 2004, was found along with medical forms by Cllr Paul Zukowskyj, who told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “To say that is a breach of the Data Protection Act would be putting it mildly.

“I found it wedged against the fence having been blown about a bit.

“It took me all of two seconds [to find]. I picked up a few but there were an awful lot more.”

He said other documents bore signatures of individuals and were in relation to whether people needed social care.

He added: “The county council should have completely cleared that site.”

Cllr Zukowskyj feared discarded letters and papers could prove to be a goldmine for potential fraudsters.

“HCC claim that our information is safe, but leaving compliments slips and other logoed materials is highly dangerous, as in the wrong hands they could be used by fraudsters or others to trick innocent people into giving them information,” he said.

He added: “Leaving potentially sensitive documents to be read by the new property owners or to blow across public roads simply isn’t on.”

Now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is set to probe the data breach.

An ICO spokesman said: “All organisations have a legal obligation to keep personal information secure and when it’s no longer needed, to dispose of it safely.”

And, asked if the ICO would be opening an investigation, he added: “[It is] fair to say [we are] looking into [it], yes.

“An investigation may be opened if and when we see evidence that there’s something to investigate.”

Derrick Ashley, cabinet member for resources, said: “In 2009 as part of the move from the site, we made arrangements for the removal and disposal of all our operational assets as part of standard site closure procedures.

“We apologise that in this instance it would appear that not all of this work was successfully carried out.

“We are investigating how this happened to ensure that it does not happen again.”

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