Data Erasure -- Whose Responsibilty?

  spuds 19:19 01 Nov 2003

We seem to get a number of questions within the forum about people purchasing computer equipment, then finding other peoples personal details on the hard drives etc.A typical post is one from ayrmail click here

Recently I purchased a 'job lot' of complete computer systems via a company liquidation auction.The company involved was in a dire situation of instant staff dismissals, with people having to leave immediately.This action resulted in data material being left on the computer systems. Including, what I would term as some of a very sensitive nature. As a point of curiousity, whose responsibilty,if any,would it have been to make sure this material was removed.Should it have been the liquidator/auctioneer or who. Would the Data Protection Act cover this oversight.

  Forum Editor 23:45 01 Nov 2003

is the individual whose data it is. You 'own' the information that uniquely identifies you as an individual - your name, your date of birth, your bank account details, etc.

If you voluntarily pass these details to a company, and that company in any way 'processes the information it must appoint an individual as a 'data controller' - and that individual becomes responsible for the correct handling and storing of your data within the terms of the data control legislation.

If the company goes into liquidation your data ceases to be in its care, and should be destroyed. You gave the information to that company, not to another one that might acquire its computer hardware at auction, or in a liquidation sale. The question of whose responsibility it is to destroy the data is an interesting one, and in the case of a liquidation there may not be the time (or the inclination) for the company's officers to attend to personal data destruction - the liquidator may move in and assume control of the comany's assets - e.g. computer hardware - and company records. Subsequent handling of the data on hard drives would depend on what happens to the drives, but at some point someone acting for the liquidators might attend to the deletion, or they might ask the next owners of the equipment to do it.

What I'm really saying is that I don't know the answer - it isn't something that has arisen in my working life - but I'm intrigued. I have as a client a lawyer who will probably know, and I'll ask him when I next get an opportunity.

  spuds 11:03 02 Nov 2003

Some great thoughts there.I approached the auctioneers on this matter, and their response was one of "We haven't got the equipment,time or knowledge on data removal". They were totally unaware of the pending problems, and I think it was a 'first' for them.The administrators were unavailable.

This is the second time that I have purchased items of this nature, and in each case, data had not been removed.Interesting subject.Wouldn't like to fall foul of any law breaking, by purchasing goods from auctions and bankrupt computer sales.

  Simsy 12:32 02 Nov 2003

but this does also lead to the possibility of not only "private", but also inappropriate/obscene material being on a HDD which is obtained legally.

In the extreme case the could lead to nasty experiences. Remember how Gary Glitter was caught!



  spuds 16:59 02 Nov 2003

As you perhaps suggest. Nothing like using the companies internet facilities in any spare time, doing something of an hidden nature...Company gone, person gone, but you are held holding the evidence.Scary isn't it!.

  oresome 17:02 02 Nov 2003

You could have a lucrative business here, spuds. It's cleaner than rummaging in dustbins and if you choose your ex owners with care, there's no telling what the media or a foreign power might pay for the info. (tongue firmly in cheek)

  spuds 17:28 02 Nov 2003

I know..Well must close the curtains, lock the door,let the dogs off their leashes, and get to some real IT work.(;0))

  Forum Editor 18:09 02 Nov 2003

and he's going to get a specialist partner in his office to give me an opinion on this. I should have some information at some point during the week.

I'll report back then - who do I send the bill to spuds?

  spuds 21:53 02 Nov 2003

FE..Send the bill to a wealthy Media company [IDG/PCA perhaps]. Just think, they could make an editorial out of it,and pay mega bucks for a story like this, and the information that I have!..Whoops sorry, that's for the more down market sleazier magazines/newspapers.

Hopefully,I will be contacting the ICO possibly early this week, on another matter, and at the same time I will mention this query.Be very interesting as to what they have to say.Straight from the horses mouth, so to say.

  Forum Editor 01:48 03 Nov 2003

Don't hold your breath reagrding a response from the Information Commissioner's office though - they're inundated with work, and you normally have to complete an 'application for assessment' form first.

I'll post that legal opinion as soon as I have it - the law firm in question is a big international one, and I'm after free advice, so I'm in no position to hussle for it.

  Forum Editor 00:38 05 Nov 2003

I've been talking to my client today, and he tells me that he has someone in his office researching this for us right now. He wants to make sure we get the best information available.

It looks as if we'll get a legal opinion before the week's out.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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