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Breach of data protection - how serious is this and where do we stand?

(69 Posts)
Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:14:09

Myself and DH have lived in the UK for 7 years working and studying. I am an EU Citizen and DH is not. We sent our applications for permanent residency to the UK Border Agency last October and enclosed all the necessary supporting, original documents as proof of residency and excercise of Treaty Rights in the UK for the past 6-7 years. The supporting documents included not only private information, such as wage slips and P60-forms and tenancy agreements, but also sensitive information, such as DH's national security clearance including his CRB, which he needs to have done every two years for his job.

We were recently contacted via letter by a man unbeknown to us, who informed us, that he had been sent all our supporting documents by the UKBA in the post. The man had himself been an applicant for an EEA-permit. In his letter the man has enclosed pictures of our documents, which he took before sending them back to the UKBA together with a complaint (he has also sent us his complaint). Not only did the man receive all our documents, but these were sent together with his own in an unorganised stack, which he had to flip through in order to separate his own documents from ours! In addition to sending his letter and pictures of our documents to our present address, the man had also sent it to our two former addresses, as he had not been 100% sure which address was our present one. The man seems very sincere and we are very happy that he has contacted us, as we have certainly not heard anything from the UKBA even though the man had received our documents over a month ago.

We are obviously very upset by this and have now submitted our complaint to the UKBA. We understand, that should we not be happy with the outcome of our complaint, we can complain further to the Information Commissioner and our MP. We were just wondering, whether it might be worth it to also sue the UKBA, as we understand they are not liable to offer any monetary compensation and the ICO cannot make them. We don't have any money to spare for legal consultation though and fear it would be a lengthy and stressful process.. Where do we stand? How serious a breach is this in the grand scale of things? Obviously for us it is deeply distressing, but how common is this to happen..?

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:16:53

It was a mistake. A silly one, and one for which you deserve an apology.

Not one for which you deserve £££££s.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:18:50

So £££s are only applicable if we end up victims of identity theft or similar?

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:19:01

(I actually find it more worrying that some random man is contacting you because my first instinct were this to happen to me would be to send the documents back to the BA so they could be returned/dealt with appropriately as quickly as possible. I wouldn't be p/copying them and stirring shit up with their owners)

How do you know he hasn't kept hold of them?

WeAreEternal Thu 07-Mar-13 09:21:51

I agree with*NotTreading*, You deserve an explanation and an apology. And the should definitely be an investigation as to how this could happen. However, this is not something that warrants monetary compensation IMO, just an apology, an investigation, and an assurance that it will never happen again.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:22:10

I see what you mean and obviously there is no guarantee either way.. I should, however, think that such information should have been handled more carefully in the first place.

I despair of this culture where people expect money for every mistake. What are your actual monetary losses? I can't see that you have any. So what are you asking to be compensated for?

LoopDeLoops Thu 07-Mar-13 09:24:10

I think it's very serious.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:26:00

For placing me in a position where my private information has been shared with a third party without justification and consent and making me a potential victim of identity theft.

ParsingFancy Thu 07-Mar-13 09:26:18

You should let the Information Commissioner know anyway, because they need to monitor this sort of breach.

I should think that will also stand you in good stead if some other bad does come of this, and you do in the future need to take legal action (pointless at the moment, I'd have thought).

And btw I think the bloke acted perfectly appropriately - the people whose privacy was breached will want to make their own complaints, which will make clear the seriousness of the incident and make it harder for UKBA to brush it under the carpet.

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:26:30

"potential" being the operative word.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:27:48

I appreciate it must have been a mistake. However, I cannot accept that such a mistake can just be brushed off. Also, it's not like our documents would have been neatly piled up separately and the man could have easily just picked up his own pile and sent ours back. They were all mixed up..

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:30:28

ParsingFancy, this is why the man has contacted us. We have been in regular contact since.

Yes it was a serious mistake, and you and the other man are perfectly right to complain. As a result, you can expect them to tighten up procedures and apologise. You have not lost any money as a result of this mistake, so why on earth would you expect to be compensated financially?

PatriciaHolm Thu 07-Mar-13 09:32:20

I don't think anyone's suggesting it be "brushed off", just that the consequences for the UKBA shouldn't involve paying you any money, as you have had no monetary loss, or anything that you need "compensating" for. Complain, escalate, make sure you get a satisfactory answer from senior management; don't sue them.

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:32:38

They were all mixed up? How do you know? Because Mr Random Act of Kindness hmm told you? Is he after some comp as well?

Civil servants at the BA will be working on desks, with files, with documents attached to them. They will probably be working on more than one case at a time.

Until you log into your bank account and discover your existing £££s have vamooshed, (and then I'd be looking at Mr. Helpful there first) I think you're just being silly.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:39:33

NotTreadingGrapes you seem to be taking this very personally shock!

ParsingFancy Thu 07-Mar-13 09:39:43

NotTreadingGrapes, you're making no sense. If Random Bloke were planning to commit fraud with this bonanza of private information, the last thing he'd do would be to contact Baloo or send the documents back to UKBA - who clearly didn't realise they'd sent them to him.

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:43:26

ParsingFancy, this was what we thought as well..

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 07-Mar-13 09:44:39

We had a problem 5 years ago when the courier delivered my children's new passports to the wrong address.

The person who received them was close enough to bring them to me in person.

I complained and received an apology along with being told the courier driver had been traced and spoken to about the seriousness of the matter.

Much better than my numerous complaints to Royal Mail over the years who saw no problem in mis- delivering exam certificates, children's application forms and putting a parcel in the good scraps recycle box.

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:46:24

Not me.

Just agree with AgentP that this compensation culture for the slightest human error is absurd.

I would have been 100% on your side about some eejit sending important documents to the wrong person, and fighting your corner to demand an apology.

Then I read the bit about you wanting the £££££s and my sympathy evaporated.

ParsingFancy Thu 07-Mar-13 09:48:01

Baloo, I think you and Random Bloke are doing the right thing. It's a serious error by UKBA and they need to feel consequences.

However I agree with PatriciaHolm that those consequences are unlikely to include paying you money - even if you do suffer id fraud, they'll argue it must be from some other event.

Which is why I'm suggesting contacting the ICO regardless. They can build a bigger picture of whether UKBA is in the habit of such breaches, and wield a tolerably large stick. (Excuse me if I don't have much faith in UKBA getting its own house in order where an individual "We're ever so sorry, now fuck off" will do.)

Baloo1 Thu 07-Mar-13 09:49:36

Picturesinthefirelight thanks for sharing your similar experiences. Sorry to hear of the troubles you've had with these sort of things though..

I think all in all this thread has helped me gather my thoughts a bit. We are still waiting to hear from the UKBA and have decided to contact the ICO in any case, as clearly the UKBA will need to re-assess their processes. As stated previously, I realise that the caseworkers are handling several applications and going through many different applicants' documents on their desks at the same time. However, I think we are entitled to expect not to have our documents mixed in with someone else's and potentially lost all together.

Picturesinthefirelight Thu 07-Mar-13 09:52:00

I notice from the website (just renewed passports again) that drivers are now required to photograph the houses they deliver passports to.

NotTreadingGrapes Thu 07-Mar-13 09:54:24

Oh Christ on a bike. They'll all be moaning about having their houses' privacy breeched now.

<do think that is a bit weird though and wouldn't necessarily want my house on a photo down the DHL office>

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