Belfast Telegraph

New Year's Honours: PSNI working with government departments on data breach

The PSNI 'aware' of reports addresses available online. 

A printed copy of the New Year Honours 2020 list (PA)
A printed copy of the New Year Honours 2020 list (PA)

By Eimear McGovern

The PSNI has confirmed it is working with the government after the home addresses of people named in the New Year Honours list were inadvertently posted online.

The Cabinet Office has been criticised for the alleged data breach after details relating to the vast majority of the 1,097 recipients could be viewed online from 11pm on Friday, shortly after news of the honours went public.

The details were removed around an hour after the accidental disclosure.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said it was aware of the reports.

"We are working closely with the relevant government departments to determine what action, if any, needs to be taken," they said.

The Cabinet Office apologised following the alleged breach and referred itself to the regulator, saying it was contacting those affected.

The list saw awards given to members of England’s World Cup winning cricket team, performers such as Sir Elton John and Grease star Olivia Newton-John, as well as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The list also included senior diplomats, counter-terror police and figures from the military.

Ninety-seven people from Northern Ireland were awarded honours, including famous singing trio The Priests and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody.

Receiving a CBE for his contribution to Economic Development in Northern Ireland was former Invest NI boss Alastair Hamilton, who recently stepped down from one of the most important roles in the public sector after 10 years in post.

A former Conservative Party leader said ministers need to ask “very serious questions” about how the home addresses came to be posted online.

Iain Duncan Smith, who was knighted in the latest honours list, described the alleged data breach as a “complete disaster”.

Sir Iain told the Sunday Times: “Ministers need to be asking some very serious questions of those involved about how this was allowed to happen and why no final checks were carried out before the document was published.

“Everybody knows virtually everything about me. It’s much more concerning for private citizens, like those who have been involved in policing or counter-terrorism or other such sensitive cases, to have their addresses published.”

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “A version of the New Year Honours 2020 list was published in error which contained recipients’ addresses.

“The information was removed as soon as possible.

“We apologise to all those affected and are looking into how this happened.

“We have reported the matter to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) and are contacting all those affected directly.”

The BBC reported six people honoured for services to defence were left off the list.

The introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules in May 2018 increased the penalties regulators such as the ICO are able to introduce.

It means breaches can result in the ICO issuing penalties equivalent of up to 4% of annual global turnover or £17 million – whichever is greater.

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