In a bad week for personal data and privacy, two separate organisations slip up and accidentally release sensitive information over email. A double data breach risks personal data of thousands as a health clinic in London and retailer WHSmith are both left red-faced as private data is sent out in emails.
The 56 Dean Street Clinic, the health clinic in London, apologised for sending out the personal information of more than 78o people in an email, including those who are living with HIV and other sensitive information they don’t really want to be sending out to hundreds of people. The information included not only includes medical data but also full names and addresses. An inquiry has been ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to find out how the NHS handles confidential information and how a mistake of this magnitude has breached hundreds of patient’s privacy.
The error happened on Tuesday when the clinic sent out its regular newsletter, but included over 780 patient’s details. The newsletter is initially intended for those who are using the clinic’s sexual health services, including HIV. The sign-up service is also for those wanting to use the clinic’s electronic service for receiving and checking online for results and appointments. The clinic immediately issued an apology and will look into how the breach of data happened.
WHSmith, one of the UK’s leading high street retailers, also compromised their customer’s details when an error on the online website’s ‘contact us’ form accidentally sent it out to every single customer on the email subscription list. Instead of going straight to the company, any information typed into the message box was instantly transmitted to every single person on the company’s mailing list. WHSmith were alerted to the mistake when many customer’s emailed the company as well as taking to social media. But most were caught in a vicious cycle as any contact to the company was simply sent out to everyone again. WHSmith issued a statement apologising, and immediately removed the page from the website until a fix could be implemented.
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