Examples of UK Data Protection Breaches

By Stephen Anderson. Last Updated 18th October 2023. 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.

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.

data protection breach examples UK

A guide to data protection breach examples in the UK

Select A Section

  1. What Is The Definition Of A Data Breach And When Could I Claim?
  2. Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK
  3. How Soon Should Data Breaches Be Reported?
  4. Data Breach Compensation Examples
  5. Talk To Us For More Information On Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK

What Is The Definition Of A Data Breach And When Could I Claim?

A personal data breach can be defined as a security incident that affects the confidentiality, availability, or integrity of personal data. Data breaches can be accidental or deliberate.

Personal data refers to information that can directly identify someone or identify them if combined with other information. Examples of personal data can include your name, home address, date of birth and your email address. 

The collection and processing of personal data is handled by data controllers and data processors. Data controllers decide why and how your personal information is processed. Data processors then carry out the task of processing this personal data on behalf of a data controller. Under legislation including the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018), data controllers and processors must follow certain procedures when collecting or managing personal data.

It may be possible for you to claim personal data breach compensation if you can establish the following:

  • There was a failure on the part of the data controller or processor to uphold their responsibilities as per the DPA and UK GDPR.
  • A breach compromising your personal data occurred as a result of their failings. 
  • The breach of your personal information caused you to experience financial loss and/or mental harm.

To learn more about UK GDPR breach examples, read on. Or, contact our team of expert advisors to learn more about data protection breach examples and when you could make a claim.

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.

More UK GDPR Breach Examples

As explained, a personal data breach can be defined as an incident that results in the unlawful loss, disclosure, access or alteration of personal data. An organisation can commit a data breach by failing to observe the principles laid out in the UK GPDR surrounding the use and safeguarding of personal information. For example, an organisation could breach the UK GDPR by failing to make information about the use of personal data available to a data subject.

The data protection breach examples we have given above are instances of organisations either sharing or using data in a way that data subjects had not consented to. Other types of breaches recorded by the ICO include

This serves as an example of a GDPR breach that put personal data at risk outside the common definition of lost or unlawfully shared data. If you were affected by such actions, you could be eligible to make a breach for compensation

To discuss other GDPR breach examples and the actions you can take for suffering harm after a personal data breach, please reach out to one of our advisers.

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.

How Long Do I Have To Claim Following A Breach Of Data?

Before we discuss examples of how a data breach could happen, it is important that you understand what the limitation period is. This refers to the time you have to take action after you suffer a psychological injury or financial harm from a breach of your data.

However, the time limit for data breach claims is different when compared to the limitation period for personal injury claims that is outlined in the Limitation Act 1980. Instead, you’ll have six years from the date of the breach to begin your claim if it involves a private organisation. If the breach affects your human rights or involves a public body, you’ll have just one year to start your claim.

Get in touch if you would like a data protection solicitor from our panel to assist you during the claims process. They’ll ensure your claim is submitted in a timely manner. Alternatively, continue reading to see some UK GDPR breach examples.

Data Breach Compensation Examples

You may wish to know more about compensation for a data breach claim. Article 82 of the UK GDPR sets out the eligibility criteria. You must be able to prove that you suffered damage, either material or non-material, due to the compromise of your personal data. Additionally, you must be able to prove that the data controller or processor did not adhere to the data protection legislation in place.

Due to the 2015 Court of Appeal ruling in the Vidal-Hall and others V. Google Inc. case, you can claim for harm to your mental health, or non-material damage, without also claiming for financial harm, or material damage. Prior to this ruling, claimants had to claim for non-material damage while claiming for material damage. In the following section, we examine data breach compensation examples.

Non-material Damage

If the compromise of your personal data caused psychological distress or made existing mental health problems worse, you could claim for non-material damage. The 2015 ruling in the Gulati and Others V. MGN Limited case stated that non-material damage in data breach claims can be valued in the same way as suffering in personal injury claims.

To help assign value to suffering, legal professionals use a document called the Judicial College Guidelines (JCG). Our table below contains examples of psychological suffering from the latest update. As there are many variables that can impact your claim, we have only provided it as guidance to help you understand how mental health damage could be valued.

Harm Caused Severity Description Compensation Bracket
Psychiatric Damage Severe (a) A very poor prognosis. The person will have problems related to many parts of their life such as education, work and their personal relationships. £54,830 to £115,730
Psychiatric Damage Moderately severe (b) The person will suffer with significant problems with various issue but the prognosis is more optimistic. £19,070 to £54,820
Psychiatric Damage Moderate (c) There is a better prognosis and significant improvements will already have been made. £5,860 to £19,070
Psychiatric Damage Less severe (d) To the extent that various daily activities were affected will determine how much is awarded. £1,540 to £5,860
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Severe (a) All aspects of the person’s life have been negatively affected, and they will be unable to function the same as they did before the trauma. £59,860 to £100,670
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Moderately Severe (b) A better prognosis, with room for some recovery. However, the person will still likely struggle for a while. £23,150 to £59,860
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Moderate (c) A significant recovery and if there are remaining symptoms, these are not considered grossly disabling. £8,180 to £23,150
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Less severe (d) An (almost) full recovery is made with 1 to 2 years. £3,950 to £8,180

Material Damage

If the compromise of your personal data caused you financial losses, a payout for this could also be included in your data breach compensation. For example, if cybercriminals gained access to your bank account or credit card, you could recover this money. You will need to submit proof to claim for material damage, such as bank statements.

Call our advisors for further information about data breach compensation amounts in the UK. They can value your potential claim for free.

Data Protection Breach Claims With A No Win No Fee Solicitor

If you are eligible to make a personal data breach claim, one of the solicitors on our panel could help you. Additionally, they may offer their services under a type of No Win No Fee agreement called a Conditional Fee Agreement.

When making a claim with a solicitor under this arrangement, you won’t be expected to pay them any upfront fees for them to begin working on your case. Furthermore, you will not have to pay them for their services if your claim fails.

If your data protection breach claim succeeds, your solicitor will deduct a success fee from your settlement award. This fee is taken as a small, legally-capped percentage.

Working with a solicitor can come with a number of benefits when claiming for a personal data breach. Examples of these benefits can include help gathering evidence, guidance throughout the claims process, and more information on potential compensation amounts.

To find out if you could be eligible to work with a solicitor from our panel, contact our advisors today by:

  •  Calling us on 0800 408 7825
  •  Using our online form to contact us
  • Interacting with the live chat feature at the bottom of the screen.

Talk To Us For More Information On Data Protection Breach Examples In The UK

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.

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.