Belfast Telegraph

Belfast city councillors' bank details disclosed in data foul-up

By Amanda Poole

Belfast city councillors were forced to cancel their bank cards last night after a major security breach in which a council worker accidentally released all their personal information to a member of the public.

An internal investigation is now under way at Belfast City Council following the disclosure of the councillors’ bank details, home addresses, personal phone numbers, car registrations and national insurance numbers.

A telephone request had been made to the City Hall for the names, electoral wards and email addresses of all 51 councillors.

But a member of staff disclosed a full array of personal details in a spreadsheet.

All the councillors have been informed.

The Information Commissioner has been told of the data protection breach and the council is considering legal action to prevent the information being released further.

A source told the Belfast Telegraph nobody within the council has been suspended yet. It is understood the request came from a woman in England who regularly contacts Belfast City Council with requests for information.

SDLP councillor Colin Keenan called the incident “quite the debacle”. He said: “Everybody is on the phone to banks and all sorts. I’m a little annoyed I had to cancel all my cards. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but from what I can gather someone asked for basic information but was sent a lot of personal information.”

Alliance councillor Andrew Webb said he was left “dumbfounded” when informed of the data breach.

“How this information could be sent out is unbelievable,” he said. “Rigorous processes need to be in place. I would like a calm assessment of what happened and assurance it will never happen again.”

UUP councillor Bob Stoker (below) said that as a public representative he is comfortable that some of his information is in the public domain — but serious questions needed to be asked about how the incident occurred.

“If bank details have been released that puts people to trouble to have accounts changed,” he said.

“When I think about all the procedures, security and firewalls councillors have to go through, I look forward to hearing what the outcome of the investigation is.”

A Belfast City Council spokesman said an investigation was under way into the circumstances leading to the information being released.

“We are aware there has been a breach of data protection,” he said.

“We have launched an immediate investigation.”

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