Exposed activist accuses Tiscali of putting life in peril
High Court threat for 'recklessly' publishing address
Exclusive A woman who passed national security information to UK authorities spent six months in fear for her life, after Tiscali published her phone number and address in public directories, despite repeated requests to keep the information secret.
Tiscali now faces broad questions about the safety of its other ex-directory subscribers and over whether it can be trusted with sensitive data.
The woman now plans a High Court action against Tiscali for "reckless endangerment". She is pursuing tens thousands of pounds in compensation, amid allegations the broadband and phone provider compounded the danger by failing to act on urgent phone calls and two registered letters once she noticed the security breach.
The Information Commissioner's Office has stated it believes Tiscali failed to comply with the Data Protection Act.
Legal staff at Tiscali, now owned by Carphone Warehouse, also refused her requests for the firm to examine its records to ensure it has not compromised other customers' safety.
The woman has changed her identity more than once in the twenty years since she was linked to national security issues involving special forces, but she and contacts remain concerned her enemies could still seek revenge. She is not listed on the electoral roll and care has always been taken to ensure her contact details did not appear in any directory.
She signed up to Tiscali broadband in 2004 and in 2007 decided to also subscribe to its phone service via a fully unbundled line. The firm took over the line on September 6 2007, having been told several times by the woman that the her details must not be shared with anyone. Tiscali sales representatives assured her the information would remain secret.
Despite the guarantees, Tiscali provided BT with the woman's name address and phone number sometime before the end of November 2007, the deadline for inclusion in the next phone book. BT - which is not responsible for checking whether competitors' customers are ex-directory - duly published it in February 2008, online to the whole world, as well as in thousands of paper copies distributed locally.
The ex-activist didn't learn of the threat until June 2008, when she received an unsolicited phone call from someone trying to locate a former neighbour. Horrified at Tiscali's failure and in fear for her safety, she immediately called the firm to demand her details were removed, at least online.
Following weeks of frantic and fruitless battling for answers or action from the firm's overseas call centre, she turned to CISAS, an independent dispute resolution service for the communications industry. It told her to contact a Tiscali office in Stevenage.
This proved difficult, as the firm does not publish contact details for the office. Racked with worry about her own safety and the safety of others connected to the events she was involved with during the 1980s, in early July 2008 she sent a registered letter to the office urging Tiscali to act. A fraught month passed without a response, so she sent another copy of the registered letter at the end of July.
More weeks passed under the burden of knowing her home address was freely available to anyone with access to the web. The woman finally received a response in late August after contacting an email address provided by CISAS. It would take a month for head office to respond, Tiscali said.