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New job?  Be careful not to take personal data with you!

Burnetts' information law solicitor Natalie Ruane discusses a warning issued by the Information Commissioner's Office regarding taking personal data with you when you leave for a new job.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently warned employees that walking off with personal information from their employer when they leave for a new job is a criminal offence.  In September a para-legal who previously worked at Jordans Solicitors in Dewsbury was prosecuted for illegally taking the sensitive information of over 100 people before leaving for a rival firm in April 2013.  The information was contained in 6 emails.  The information included workload lists, file notes and template documents.  However all of these still contained personal data about others.

James Pickles was fined £300, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £438.63 prosecution costs. 

The ICO Head of Enforcement, Stephen Eckersley, said: “Stealing personal information is a crime.  The information contained in the documents taken by James Pickles included sensitive details relating to individuals involved in ongoing legal proceedings.  He took this information without the permission and has been rewarded with a day in court and a substantial fine.”

“Employees may think work-related documents that they have produced or worked on belong to them and so they are entitled to take them when they leave.  But if they include peoples’ details, then taking them without permission is breaking the law.”

This offence is punishable by way of a fine only of up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court. 

You also have to ask what restrictive covenants relating to confidential information, Mr Pickles was also breaking at the time!!

About the author

Natalie Ruane profile photo

Natalie Ruane

Natalie is a Partner and leads the Employment Law & HR team and specialises in education.

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014
Categorised: Employment, Information Law

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