Cabinet Office fined £ 500,000 for publishing private addresses of celebrities
The ICO said the government had “failed to put in place the appropriate technical and organizational measures to prevent unauthorized disclosure of personal information.”
Speaking at the time, the blunder was called “inexcusable” by privacy group Big Brother Watch. “It is extremely worrying that the government does not have basic control over data protection,” said the organization’s director, Silkie Carlo.
More than a dozen Defense Ministry employees have also had their personal addresses made public, as have senior counterterrorism officers.
TV cook Nadiya Hussain, England cricketer Ben Stokes and former Ofcom boss Sharon White were also on the list.
The £ 500,000 fine comes at a time of rocky relations between the Cabinet Office and the information watchdog. Last week, outgoing Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham criticized the ministry for its record on transparency.
She said her actions “heightened suspicion” of a secret unit called the Clearing House, which reviews access to information (FOI) requests.
Denham was speaking to the Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, which is investigating the unit following allegations that it is “blacklisting” journalists.
The investigation follows openDemocracy’s investigations, which revealed how the clearinghouse interfered with requests regarding the Grenfell Tower tragedy and showed that political advisers were authorized to “approve” the responses of the JTF.
The clearinghouse was also at the center of a historic openDemocracy legal victory earlier this year. Opposing the government, a judge criticized the “profound lack of transparency” of his FOI unit, saying it could “extend to ministers”.
Today, the Cabinet Office apologized for the data breach and said it took criticism “very seriously”.
“The Cabinet Office would like to reiterate our apologies for this incident,” said a spokesperson. “We have taken steps to mitigate any potential harm by immediately notifying the Information Commissioner and all those affected by the breach.
“We take the Information Commissioner’s findings very seriously and have performed an internal review and implemented a number of measures to ensure this does not happen again. This includes a review of overall system security, information management training, and improvement of internal data handling processes by the Honors team. “