Police breaches of the Data Protection Act revealed last week by civil liberties watchdog Big Brother Watch highlight a problem faced by all organisations, according to identity management firm Cyber-Ark.
The Big Brother Watch report showed that 904 police officers and staff have been subject to internal disciplinary procedures for breaches of the Data Protection Act between 2007 and 2010.
Those involved were guilty of running background checks on friends and possible partners, as well as passing sensitive information on to criminal gangs and drug dealers in some cases.
This abuse of access to private information is not uncommon, said Cyber-Ark, with the company's own research revealing that 44% of IT staff in EMEA admitted to accessing information irrelevant to their job.
Almost a third of those polled admitted that they, or a peer, had used administrative passwords to gain access to confidential or sensitive data.
"The police, like any other organisation, has an obligation to protect sensitive information," said Mark Fullbrook, director, UK and Ireland, at Cyber-Ark.
To achieve this requires a combination of technologies that enable a comprehensive overview of privileged access, which logs and monitors all sessions and activities, and education, he said.
"As reports continue to surface of other individuals repeatedly abusing their position to access sensitive information, there clearly remains a real need to educate staff on the importance of data protection and the responsibility that comes with privilege," said Fullbrook.