Civil Servant jailed for data breach

A rogue civil servant recently pleaded guilty before Letterkenny Circuit Court to a number of charges of receiving corrupt payments for leaking personal data held on a database of his then employer, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, over a 3 year period to private investigators for which he was paid €22,000. 

Rory Lenihan (50) was sentenced to two years imprisonment, with the final year being suspended.

Passing sentence, Judge John Alymer said that he considered the Defendant’s actions to be in the mid range for such offences. There was a significant breach of trust and privacy of all citizens’ information held by the government Department resulting in an undermining of public confidence.

The Defendant’s sole motivation was personal gain.  The judge concluded that he had no option but to impose a custodial sentence because of the gravity of the offences and the fact that they took place over a prolonged period of time.

Assistant Data Protection Commissioner, Tony Delaney, welcomed the outcome at what he described as the end of lengthy court proceedings on foot of investigations by An Garda Síochána and the Data Protection Commissioner going back as far back as 2010.

He stated that the ‘Court outcome should serve as a very clear warning to employees in all sectors against snooping through, or disclosing to, unauthorised third parties personal data that may be at their disposal in their workplace for the performance of their duties. Employees are given access to records of personal data for work-related purposes. Any deviation by employees from those official purposes, such as accessing records to obtain information on behalf of family, friends or others, constitutes a breach of data protection legislation which could result in serious consequences for the employees concerned.’

What safeguards have you put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen in your workplace?

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