Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK

By Cat Gengar. Last Updated 9th June 2022. In this guide on data protection breach examples in the UK, we will explain what qualifies as a data breach and provide examples of data protection breaches.

data protection breach examples UK

A guide to data protection breach examples in the UK

Organisations that collect or process personal data should have security measures to protect it. Indeed, the UK GDPR and other data protection legislation requires organisations to protect the personal data they collect. Therefore what happens if a data breach occurs due to the organisation’s positive wrongful conduct? The data breach victims may be eligible to claim compensation for any financial or mental harm caused.

Please contact Public Interest Lawyers today to see if you can claim compensation for a data breach. Our advisors are available 24/7 and give free legal advice. What’s more, you’ll be under no obligation to proceed with the services of our panel of data protection solicitors after getting in touch.

If they can see you have a valid claim, they could connect you to our panel of solicitors and can value your compensation claim. Our panel of solicitors offer their services on a No Win No Fee basis, so you won’t even have to pay an upfront solicitor’s fee.

Select A Section

  1. What Are Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK?
  2. What Are Three Categories Of Personal Data Breaches?
  3. Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK
  4. How Soon Should Data Breaches Be Reported?
  5. Data Breach Compensation Amounts UK
  6. Talk To Us

What Are Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK?

First of all, let’s look at some data protection breach examples in the UK. As we have explained, a data breach is a security incident. It compromises the protection of personally identifiable information. A data breach involves personal data being lost, destroyed, disclosed, accessed or changed accidentally or unlawfully.

What Are Some Examples Of Data Protection Breaches?

Now let’s look at some examples of data breaches:

  • A breach of the UK GDPR could lead to a data breach. For example, organisations should get consent from an individual before they process their personal information. If your email address is shared without your permission to someone without the authority to receive it, that could be a data breach. (However, there are certain circumstances where consent isn’t needed to share your data.)
  • An incident where an employee loses a work device that contains personal information. If the device is not protected, persons could gain unauthorised access to the data.
  • Failure to redact personal information from a press release or an online statement.
  • Sending personal information via a letter or email to the wrong address, despite having the correct address on file. The recipient could access your personal data without a lawful reason.

What Are Some Examples Of Personal Information?

Personal data is information that can identify a person. Organisations that collect personally identifiable information are legally obliged to protect the data and, therefore, protect the rights and freedoms of the individuals that own the data (known as the data subjects).

Here are some examples of personal information:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Dates of birth
  • Email addresses
  • Usernames and passwords
  • Phone numbers
  • Bank account numbers
  • Debit card numbers
  • Credit card numbers

What Are Three Categories Of Personal Data Breaches?

Now let’s look at three categories of personal data breaches. Additionally, we will look at data protection breach examples.

Human Error

A human error data breach is a data breach caused by unintended actions or inactions by employees or users. For example, an employee may accidentally leave a confidential file containing personal data on a public-facing desk. Therefore, unauthorised persons could access the data.

Examples of data protection breaches caused by human error are not intentional or malicious. However, if a data breach does end up violating a person’s privacy, then this can have a harmful effect. To stop such incidents from happening, organisations have been recommended by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and similar groups to invest in data protection training to help their employees avoid such mistakes.

Loss Of Devices

A device loss incident happens when a device containing personal data is stolen or lost. The device may be a smartphone, laptop or tablet for example. If another person finds the device, they could gain unauthorised access to the information. You should be able to set up a PIN number or password to protect your device in case of loss.


A business or an organisation could potentially become the subject of cybercrime. For instance, criminals may carry out a hacking attack. Hackers exploit existing weaknesses in a company’s cyber security to access a computer network or system. Additionally, criminals may utilise malicious software (such as malware) to gain unauthorised access to a system or database. Criminals may then use the data they steal for purposes such as blackmail or identity theft.

Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK

In this section, we will provide some examples of data protection breaches and GDPR breach examples to help give you a better idea of what a personal data breach could look like.

These data protection act breach examples have been taken from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is the UK’s independent overseeing organisation tasked with enforcing data protection laws. While the ICO cannot provide compensation to those whose data has been exposed in a breach, they can open an official investigation and fine organisations that are found to have breached data protection laws.

  • HIV Scotland: In 2021, HIV Scotland was fined £10,000 for breaching data protection law through incorrect use of BCC in an email containing personal data, in which the email addresses of 105 patient advocates were revealed through incorrect use of BCC, 65 of which identified them by name. The ICO found that an assumption could be made about individuals’ HIV status or risk through the data exposed.
  • Northern Gas & Power LTD: Northern Gas & Power Ltd. were fined £75,000 by the ICO in 2021 after an investigation found that they had made direct marketing calls to subscribers who had not given valid consent.
  • We Buy Any Car Limited: In September 2021, We Buy Any Car Limited was fined £200,00 following an investigation by the ICO. This was the result of 42 complaints being made to the Commissioner, due to 191.4 million marketing emails and 3.6 million marketing SMS messages without obtaining the proper consent.

To learn more about how you could claim for personal data breaches, contact our advisors today. They can provide free legal advice and may be able to put you in touch with a solicitor from our panel.

How Soon Should Data Breaches Be Reported?

If a personal data breach risks your rights and freedoms, the organisation should notify you within 72 hours of becoming aware of the data breach. The data breach notification can be used as evidence if you choose to claim compensation.

In addition, one of the organisation’s data protection officers (or relevant party) should inform the ICO of the data breach as soon as possible. The Information Commissioner’s Office may fine the organisation for breaching personal data.

However, if the data breach isn’t notifiable, the organisation doesn’t have to inform you or the ICO.

Data Breach Compensation Amounts UK

If you claim compensation for a data breach, you could receive up to two types of damages. This has been demonstrated in previous examples of data protection breach compensation.

Firstly you could claim material damages for any financial losses you have experienced because of the data breach. For example, if you were the victim of identity theft, you can claim back any money you lost and weren’t able to recover.

Secondly, you could seek non-material damages. Non-material damages compensate for any emotional distress or mental health problems you have experienced because of the data breach.

The table below has examples of how much data breach compensation you could claim. You can use the table to estimate how much your claim could be worth in non-material damages.

We have used guidelines from the Judicial College to create the compensation table. Data breach solicitors may use these guidelines and other evidence to help value mental injuries which you may be claiming for.

Harm CausedSeverityDescriptionCompensation Bracket
Psychiatric DamageSevere (a)There is generally a very poor prognosis for recovery. The person will have problems related to many partsof their life such as education and work, relationships and other aspects. Treatment is unlikely to be effective. £54,830 to £115,730
Moderate (c)There is generally a better prognosis and significant recovery will already have been made.£5,860 to £19,070
Less severe (d)This is the least severe degree of psychiatric damage. The claimant could have suffered problems with daily activities such as sleeping patterns.£1,540 to £5,860
Post-Traumatic Stress DisorderModerately Severe (b)Effects on the claimant could include disturbance to sleep, hyper-arousal, problems with mood and other effects. With specialist help they can make a degree of recovery.£23,150 to £59,860
Moderate (c)There is a good outlook for recovery and if there are remaining symptoms, these are not considered grossly disabling. £8,180 to £23,150
Less severe (d)An (almost) full recovery could be made.£3,950 to £8,180

The compensation amounts in the table may be worth more or less than what you receive. Moreover, the table does not include material damages you can claim.

Please call our helpline, and an advisor can speak to you in more depth about what your claim could be worth.

Talk To Us

We hope this guide covering examples of data protection breaches has been helpful. If you would like legal advice on making a potential data breach claim, please contact Public Interest Lawyers today.

How can Public Interest Lawyers’ panel of data breach solicitors help you?

  • Firstly, our panel has a substantial amount of experience in handling data breach claims.
  • Secondly, they can support your potential claim from anywhere in the country.
  • And finally, if it’s found that you have strong grounds to claim, they can support it on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that you will only have to pay your solicitor’s legal fees if your claim wins. Full details on how payment would work is included in the Conditional Fee Agreement (another term for No Win No Fee agreement) and you can review them before signing to formalise this arrangement.

Other benefits of No Win No Fee include:

  • Not paying a solicitor’s fee upfront.
  • Not paying an ongoing solicitor’s fee.
  • The ‘success fee’ (the fee you pay your solicitor if the claim wins) is capped by law to a small percentage. It’s also only taken from the compensation after that comes through.

Reach Out To Us

  • Contact us via our website to begin your claim today.
  • Call our helpline on 0800 408 7825.
  • Use our live chat to get through to our advisors instantly.

We can offer you free legal advice about examples of data protection breaches and making a personal data breach claim when you have grounds to start one. What’s more, we’re available 24/7 and you won’t be under any obligation to proceed with the services of our panel of solicitors.

Examples Of Claims We Handle

If you wish to claim compensation for a data breach, we hope this guide has been helpful. Please feel free to read these guides to find out more about the process of making a data breach claim.

Claim For A Wrong Postal Address Data Breach

Claim For A Failure To Use BCC Data Breach

Optician Data Breach Compensation Claims

How to make a complaint to the ICO

Data Protection Act 2018, which is just one of the UK’s data protection laws

If you still have any questions related to data protection breach examples or data breach claims, please feel free to contact Public Interest Lawyers today to talk to one of our advisors.