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Investigation launched after thousands of personal documents found on side of road

Confidential documents were scattered on the Tuam to Athenry road.

Image: Shutterstock/hafakot

THE DATA PROTECTION Commissioner is to launch an investigation into a potential data breach where sensitive information belonging to farmers was found strewn across a road in Galway.

Thousands of farmers’ documents were scattered on the Tuam to Athenry road, near Ballyglunin. The issue was raised by Independent Councillor Karey McHugh at a meeting of Galway County Council last night.

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins informed the Data Protection Commission of the incident today. The body is now launching an investigation into what happened and has contacted Galway County Council in order to try and identify the data controller responsible.

It’s believed many of the documents relate to the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Environment Protection Scheme and contain sensitive information such as names, addresses and bank details.

Higgins advised farmer to be “wary of any unsolicited communications, by phone, text or otherwise that they receive”.

They should be particularly vigilant of getting letters or phone calls out of the blue or people contacting them with some of their details and hoping to elicit more information from them.

McHugh wrote on her Facebook page that documents like this “should be shredded to keep peoples details private”, adding: “This is just not good enough and it is not the end of this.”

Higgins commended McHugh for raising the issue at the council meeting: “Fair play to her for being so proactive.”

The Senator added that sanctions should be taken against the person who dumped the documents to “send a message to people who deal with data that it needs to be treated with the utmost sensitivity”.

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Órla Ryan

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