£120k fine for TV company for data protection breaches at maternity clinic

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The ICO has issued a fine of £120,000 to True Visions Productions for breaches of data protection legislation.

The case involves the company recording patients at a maternity clinic at a Cambridge hospital. They set up CCTV style cameras to record patients in the clinics. None of the footage that was recorded was viewed by any employees of the TV company unless consent had been received from the patients – in fact, due to general concerns about the recording the TV company stopped filming and destroyed all of the recordings which were never broadcast.

Even though the recordings were not used, the ICO felt that the company had failed to adequately inform clinic patients that they were being recorded and that options for not being recorded were limited.

Whilst TVP had posted notices including letters from the NHS clinic’s Trust around the clinic these notices were inadequate particularly considering the sensitive nature of the patient’s discussions in the clinic (which were mainly around concerns regarding pregnancy). The notices themselves did not provide adequate explanations to the patients and indicated that patients would not be filmed without consent, which was not the case as the cameras were on all the time.

An ICO spokesperson said:

Patients would not have expected to have been filmed in this situation, and many will have been very distressed when they learned such a private and potentially traumatic moment had been recorded.

“The recorded footage would have included the sensitive personal data of patients who could already be suffering anxiety and stress.

“We recognise the public interest in programmes that aim to educate and inform, but those responsible for making them must operate within the law, particularly when the subject involves the processing of highly sensitive medical information.

“In particular, we took the view that there was no valid reason for the television company to have failed to adequately inform patients in advance that they would be filmed.

It should be noted that this enforcement from the ICO is under old data protection (Data Protection Act 1998) as the incident took place in 2017, pre-GDPR.

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