Members of the Lake District National Park Authority are being warned to use official emails for business – or fall foul of data protection laws.

It follows the introduction of both the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018.

A report to an LDNPA committee next week said all 20 of its park members have an official email account.

But some forward emails from it to their personal accounts, which could put them at risk of a potential breach of the laws.

Data is defined as personal email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and notes written about someone, among others.

The problem, the report said, is that the LDNPA is registered to the Information Commissioner’s Office in order to comply with the law and allow such information to be exchanged, but individual park members are not.

A report to the park’s governance committee, which meets next Wednesday, April 17, has recommended members use official email accounts for park business.

It said: “Where members conduct their business through their authority account they are covered by the authority’s registration with the ICO.

“When authority business is conducted via personal accounts, particularly when responding to emails that have been received by an authority account and responded to by means of a personal email account, the data is without the authority’s systems and members are not covered by the authority’s registration.

"This means that members are required to be registered as data controllers in their own right.”

The report added that if personal emails are used, the authority may not always be able to respond fully to Freedom of Information requests.

That could mean members having to give up information from personal email accounts, it said.

The report added: “Failure to provide such information would be in breach of

Freedom of Information legislation and may result in financial penalties.”

The proposals have been tabled to the LDNPA’s governance committee by IT staff and the national park’s head of communications.

The committee is chaired by Councillor John Thompson, of Eden District Council, with members including Cumbrian hill farmer Peter Allen MBE, the deputy national park chairman.