Last week, the names and details of individuals adopted over the past century were found to be accessible on the genealogy website, Scotland’s People. The exposure of these records, alongside other recent data breaches, has ignited a discourse on privacy and security.
Upon being alerted by a concerned mother, who discovered her adopted child’s details on the website, the NRS acted promptly, removing the information within 36 hours. The mother detailed her experience in an interview with BBC Scotland News. She highlighted the potential risk of the website inadvertently enabling individuals to discern the adopted child’s new surname. This revelation is alarming, especially as many adoptive parents opt to retain the first names of their children.
Diving deeper into the website’s database, it was revealed that the platform had information on adoptions dating as far back as 1909, with the most recent entries from 2022. Nick Hobbs, the acting Children’s Commissioner in Scotland, said that the exposed data could be in violation of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which enshrine the right to privacy.
While the NRS responded by temporarily removing the records from the site, they highlighted their statutory responsibility to maintain open and searchable registers. They also stressed that this incident didn’t classify as a personal data breach. Nonetheless, as a precautionary measure, they informed the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about the concerns raised.
The ICO, in its statement, underscored the importance of sensitive personal data being managed in congruence with data protection laws. They clarified that while the NRS did notify them, they hadn’t received a formal breach report.
This incident serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities of balancing transparency and privacy in the digital age. As the debate around personal data continues to evolve, it underscores the need for stringent measures and vigilance in the handling of sensitive information, especially when it pertains to vulnerable demographics.
It is paramount that organisations ensure robust data governance practices to prevent potential breaches and safeguard individual rights.