The government and its agencies are responsible for safeguarding people‘s data, and when they fail to do so, it can have severe consequences. Therefore, it is crucial to understand your rights and how to seek data breach compensation for data breaches in government agencies that cause harm.
Our guide to claiming data breach compensation for data breaches in government agencies will contain information on the eligibility criteria for making a claim, the types of damages that could make up a payout, and how a No Win No Fee solicitor could assist you in the process. We understand that the legal process can be confusing and overwhelming, so our guide will provide you with clear and concise information on the steps you need to take to make a successful claim.
If you have any questions after reading the guide, our knowledgeable advisors are available to help. We can also connect you with a data breach solicitor from our panel, who will work with you on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning you won’t have to pay any legal fees unless your claim is successful.
By following our guide, you can ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for any harm caused by a data breach in a government agency. By getting in touch, you could obtain a free eligibility check on your case, and get help to start a claim.
What Is A Government Agency Data Breach?
A government agency data breach refers to an incident where personal information held by a government agency is wrongfully accessed, disclosed, or destroyed. Such breaches could be the result of cyber attacks, employee error or negligence, or physical theft. Government agencies hold a vast amount of sensitive data, including financial, health, employment, and criminal records, which, if breached, could lead to severe consequences for the affected individuals.
Examples of government agencies that hold personal data include:
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC): They hold sensitive financial information, including tax records and national insurance numbers.
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): They hold personal information related to employment, benefits, and pensions.
- National Health Service (NHS): They hold sensitive medical records and other health-related information.
- Home Office: They hold personal data related to immigration and criminal records.
These are just a few examples. If you believe you‘ve suffered harm because a government agency has wrongfully exposed your personal data, please get in touch with an advisor. They could assess your case to see if you could claim.
Who Could Claim Compensation For A Government Agency Data Breach?
Under the Data Protection Act 2018, government agencies are legally obligated to protect individuals’ personal data and prevent any unauthorised access, disclosure, or destruction of such data. If a government agency fails to meet these obligations and wrongfully exposes individuals’ personal data, affected individuals have the right to claim data breach compensation.
A breach can happen due to a variety of factors, such as human error, system vulnerabilities, or malicious activity by hackers. Some examples of personal information that may be compromised in a government data breach include names, addresses, National Insurance numbers, and financial information.
How Could A Breach Of Personal Data Happen?
Here are four hypothetical examples of how government agency data breaches could happen:
- A government agency employee falls victim to a phishing scam and inadvertently provides their login credentials to a cybercriminal. The attacker then uses those credentials to gain access to the agency’s network and steal sensitive data.
- A government agency stores personal data on an unsecured server that is accessible over the internet. A hacker finds the server and exploits a vulnerability to gain unauthorised access to the data.
- A government agency outsources a data processing function to a third-party vendor. The vendor experiences a data breach, and personal data held by the government agency is compromised.
- A government agency employee accidentally emails a spreadsheet containing personal data to the wrong person due to a typo in the email address. The unintended recipient then has access to the sensitive data and could potentially misuse it.
However, it is worth noting that these are just examples and data breaches can happen in many different ways. It is important for government agencies to have robust data protection policies and procedures in place to minimise the risk of breaches occurring and to have a response plan in place in case a breach does occur.
How to know if you have been affected
If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised in a government data breach, there are a few signs to look out for. These may include:
- Unauthorised access to your accounts or personal information
- Suspicious activity on your credit reports or financial statements
- Unexplained charges or withdrawals from your accounts
- Notices from the government agency or other sources about a potential data breach
If you notice any of these signs, it is important to take action as soon as possible to protect your personal information and file a compensation claim if necessary.
Example Of A Government Agency Data Breach
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was found to have unlawfully collected biometric data of approximately 7 million individuals through its Voice ID service between January 2017 and October 2018. The system was designed to use an individual’s voice pattern as a secure password. Still, HMRC failed to obtain explicit consent to process biometric data, which is classified as a special category of personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) stated that consent was the only potentially relevant condition for HMRC to rely on and, as there was no clear method of opting out and customers were not informed they did not have to sign up, explicit consent was not obtained. HMRC attempted to contact those affected, but only received responses from approximately 1.25 million of them, with around 20% of respondents withholding their consent for HMRC to continue processing their data.
The ICO required HMRC to delete all biometric data in relation to the Voice ID system for data subjects who had not given explicit consent and require any suppliers to do the same. Furthermore, failure to comply with the enforcement notice could lead to a fine of up to €20,000,000 or 4% of HMRC’s worldwide turnover (whichever is higher).
Damages Claimable In A Data Breach Claim
In data breach claims, the relevant damages could include financial losses suffered by the claimant due to the breach. These could include identity theft or fraudulent transactions, and compensation for the distress or psychological injuries caused by the breach. The latter is often referred to as non-material damages and can vary depending on the severity and nature of the breach.
The Judicial College Guidelines provides insight into data breach compensation for psychological injuries by providing a framework for determining the amount of compensation that should be awarded to the claimant based on the nature and severity of their injuries. The Guidelines provide a range of damages for different types of injuries, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression, and the level of severity of these conditions. You can find more details of these guidelines below. However, they are only meant to provide a very rough insight into how much different injury levels could bring.
- General psychological injury – Severe- £54,830 to £115,730
- General psychological injury – Moderately Severe- £19,070 to £54,830
- General psychological injury – Moderate- £5,860 to £19,070
- General psychological injury – Less Severe- £1,540 to £5,860
No Win No Fee Claims Against Government Agencies
A Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA), also known as a No Win No Fee agreement, is a type of legal funding arrangement that is commonly used in personal injury and data breach claims. In a CFA, the client and the lawyer agree that the lawyer will only receive payment if they win the case. If the case is unsuccessful, the lawyer will not receive any payment.
Under a CFA, the lawyer’s fees are usually calculated as a percentage of the compensation that is awarded to the client. This percentage can be up to 25% of the compensation. If the client wins the case, the lawyer’s fees will be deducted from the compensation that is awarded. If the client loses the case, the lawyer will not receive any payment.
It is worth noting that the success fee that the lawyer charges under a CFA is capped by law, so it cannot exceed a certain percentage of the compensation awarded to the client. This is to ensure that clients are not charged excessively high fees. Additionally, clients are entitled to obtain insurance to cover the costs of any disbursements in case the case is unsuccessful.
Should you wish to make a claim with a No Win No Fee solicitor from our panel, or get answers to your questions about data breaches by government agencies, please don‘t hesitate to get in touch.
Further Insight Into Claiming Data Breach Compensation For Data Breaches In Government Agencies
Secure Email – Firstly, read government guidance on secure email use.
Personal Data Breach Examples – The ICO gives examples of data breaches.
Data Breach Information – A Freedom of Information response on data breaches can be found here.
Wage data breach – If your wage data has been breached, you can learn more about what to do here.
Wrong Email Address Data Breach – Could you claim compensation for an incident involving a wrong email address? Find out here.
Lost Or Stolen Device – Finally, it could be possible to claim compensation for a data breach involving a lost or stolen device. Find out more here.