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New Year Honours: Home address blunder may risk lives | Business News

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A former counter-terrorism chief has warned lives may be at risk after the Cabinet Office accidentally published the home addresses of recipients named in the New Year Honours list.

Celebrities, politicians, military figures, police, sports stars and elderly people were among those victims whose details could be viewed online.

Richard Walton, who headed anti-terror operations at Scotland Yard until 2016, said extra security must be considered for those either in, or who have left, sensitive posts.

He told the Sunday Times: “The release of private addresses of these individuals into the public domain will be a threat and risk assessment will need to be undertaken resulting in some having new private security measures introduced into their homes.”

The vast majority of the 1,097 recipients were thought to be affected by the blunder, including former director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders and ex-Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Richard Walton left the Metropolitan Police in January 2016
Image:
Richard Walton left the Metropolitan Police in January 2016

Mr Duncan Smith was already facing a backlash against the awarding of his knighthood from critics of Universal Credit – the controversial welfare reforms he introduced while a minister.

More than 100,000 signatures have been gathered in a petition to strip him of the honour.

He told the newspaper the leak of addresses was a “complete disaster” while it said pressure was growing on Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill – also national security adviser – to resign.

Former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake described the department’s error as a “very serious breach of personal security”.

A screenshot of the addresses published online. Pic: @marklittlewood
Image:
A screenshot of the addresses published online. Pic: @marklittlewood

Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, 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.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating the circumstance of the publication.

It is understood the addresses could be seen for more than half an hour after the honours list was published on Friday night.

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.”

It is understood that while the data was removed, versions were later being shared on social media.

The ICO has the power to fine organisations for data breaches, with the potential sums involved rising substantially when the EU’s GDPR rules were introduced last year.

British Airways is facing a possible £183m penalty from the ICO for a data breach involving customer data.

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