In what is being described as the first “Boris Bungle” of the new government (after the children’s series Rainbow) the government has apologised “to all those affected” after it accidentally published addresses of more than 1,000 New Year Honours recipients online.
The file – which included details of senior police officers and politicians – was uploaded to an official website on Friday evening and removed Saturday.
The Cabinet Office told the BBC it was “looking into how this happened” .Among the addresses were those of Sir Elton John and former director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders. Also on the list of 1,097 honours recipients were high-profile names such as cricketer Ben Stokes, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, TV cook Nadiya Hussain, and former Ofcom boss Sharon White.
The data breach was described as “farcical and inexcusable” by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch.
The organisation’s director, Silkie Carlo, said: “It’s extremely worrying to see that the government doesn’t have a basic grip on data protection, and that people receiving some of the highest honours have been put at risk because of this.
“It’s a farcical and inexcusable mistake, especially given the new Data Protection Act passed by the government last year. It clearly can’t stick by its rules.”
A government 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 have reported the matter to the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office] and are contacting all those affected directly.” The ICO, which has the power to fine organisations for data breaches, said it will be “making enquiries”.
The Cabinet Office said the document was visible for around an hour.
Most of the entries in the spreadsheet include full addresses – including house numbers and postcodes.
A separate list, that does not appear to be involved in the breach, covers gallantry awards for police, ambulance and fire staff and military personnel