The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was recently made aware that, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request published on its website in November last year, certain underlying confidential information may have been accessible. The response related to the number and nature of new complaints made against the FCA and handled by the complaints team between 2 January 2018 and 17 July 2019. The publication of this information was a mistake by the FCA.
As soon as the organisation became aware of this, it removed the relevant data from its website. The FCA has since undertaken a full review to identify the extent of any information that may have been accessible. Its primary concern is to ensure the protection and safeguarding of individuals who may be identifiable from the data.
In many instances, the extent of the accessible information was only the name of the person making the complaint, with no further confidential details or specific details of their complaint.
However, the FCA has stated that there are instances where additional confidential information was contained within the description of the complaint, for example an address, telephone number or other information. Where this is the case, the FCA is making direct contact with the individuals concerned to apologise and advise them of the extent of the data disclosed and what the next steps might be.
No financial, payment card, passport or other identity information were included.
The FCA has taken immediate action to ensure this kind of mistake cannot happen again and has referred the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Speaking about the news, Toni Vitale (partner and head of data protection at law firm JMW Solicitors) informed Risk Xtra: “There are overlaps between Freedom of Information and data protection laws and there are specific exemptions which allow personal data identifying a third party to be excluded from a Freedom of Information response. This is often done by manually or electronically ‘redacting’ the parts which identify a third party. This does not appear to have been done here. Although the information was only available for a brief period, the FCA faces the risk of a fine from the ICO and possibly claims for compensation from anyone affected.”