The UK Information Commissioner\u2019s Office (ICO) has called for an immediate end to the use of Excel spreadsheets to publish Freedom of Information (FOI) data in the wake of serious data breaches. The data protection regulator issued an advisory notice to all public authorities about the risks of personal information within spreadsheets being disclosed inadvertently in response to FOI requests. The ICO said that alternative approaches should be used to mitigate risk to personal information.\n\nThe advisory comes after the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Norfolk and Suffolk police constabularies both recently suffered accidental data breaches that exposed highly sensitive information stored in spreadsheets following FOI requests.\n\nAlternative approaches should be used to mitigate risk to personal information\n\nAs a \u201cmatter of urgency,\u201d the ICO advised all public authorities to:\n\nAuthorities must have \u201crobust measures\u201d in place to protect personal information\n\n\u201cThe recent personal data breaches are a reminder that data protection is, first and foremost, about people,\u201d said John Edwards, Information Commissioner. \u201cWe have seen both the immediate and ongoing impact that the release of such sensitive personal information has had on the individuals and families involved, and that is why I have taken this action.\u201d\n\nIt is imperative that robust measures are in place to protect personal information, he added. \u201cThe advice we have issued sets out the bare minimum that public authorities should be doing to protect personal data when responding to information access requests, and to reassure the people they serve, and their staff, that their information is in safe hands.\u201d\n\nIn the same week, the ICO warned of the potential risks to life posed by data breaches exposing the personally identifiable information (PII) of domestic abuse victims. The data privacy regulator urged organizations handling the PII of domestic abuse victims to take responsibility for training their staff and putting appropriate systems in place to avoid such incidents.