Finding other people’s personal information

People sometimes have information sent to them that’s not theirs, or they may find other people’s information in places like cafes or on public transport.

One example might be finding a memory stick on the street that contains documents or images. Or perhaps you requested personal information about yourself from a government agency and were sent someone else’s file in error.

If this happens to you, you should treat the information like the valuable lost property it is. You have legal obligations once you are in possession of information that identifies other people, or that is clearly confidential.

There are a few things to bear in mind:

1.  Remember to keep the information safe and don’t copy it. Once you have it, you’re responsible for its security.

2.  If possible, send it back to the agency it came from. Then the agency knows it’s made a mistake and can decide whether and how to let the person know. It can also figure out what went wrong so it can improve its systems.

3.  If you don’t know where it came from, or you think it is better to send it to us, contact us on 0800 803 909.

4.  Alternatively, you could return it to the person whose information it is. But it’s best to contact the agency if you can. The agency will be better placed to let their customer or client know what has happened.

5.  Sometimes people want to head straight to the media and share the news of what’s happened. That decision is up to you, but you still have legal responsibility for the information you hold. Handle the information with respect and send it back to the agency. There is nothing to stop you telling your story to a journalist. But don’t put other people at risk when you are doing that.