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English council accidentally outs residents

A local council in London has mistakenly made the sexual orientations of nearly 2,500 residents public in an online data leak
Islington Town Hall
Alan Ford

Islington London Borough Council accidentally made the sexualities of nearly 2,500 of its residents public in a Freedom of Information (FOI) bungle in July.

Town hall staff accidentally leaked the names, addresses, relationship statuses, genders, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations of around 2,400 people who had been re-housed by the council.

The Islington Gazette reported that the information was freely available on the internet for 19 days before the problem was discovered, although the council believes it was only accessed seven times during that period.

Council staff discovered the problem on July 16, just four days after it had held a public briefing about another data leak in which the names and addresses of 51 residents were given to suspected drug dealers on a local housing estate.

A resident who was a victim of both data leaks told the Islington Gazette, ‘I am so angry I can’t even speak.’

‘I got the letter on Wednesday and I was shocked. How could this happen again? I am very fearful now, but I don’t want to have to move.’

Councillor Terry Stacey, who heads the minority Liberal Democrats faction on council, told the Gazette, ‘This comes less than a week after we were reassured by the Labour leadership after supposedly thorough audits of data protection at the council that everything was OK and this couldn’t happen again.’

‘How wrong it seems they were. This is yet another data disaster, and this time more than 2,000 resident’s details are out in the public domain because of incompetence from this Labour council.’

Labour housing and development councilor James Murray said the mistake should have never happened.

‘I am angry and disappointed,’ Murray said, ‘Islington residents need to know that their personal information is safe with the council.’

‘An investigation is underway and I have made clear that I want any and every lesson to be learned.’

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