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Home Office clumsily LEAKS data of 1,598 immigrants, blames 'transparency'

Nodding watchdog: We're looking closely at this one

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The Home Office has embarrassingly coughed to accidentally leaking the personal details of 1,598 immigrants.

Applicants in the “family returns” process had some of their personal data exposed online for nearly a fortnight, immigration minister Mark Harper admitted in a written statement to Parliament on Thursday.

He blamed the government's transparency agenda for the error by, in effect, suggesting that such a data breach was a horrible side effect of Whitehall being more open with taxpayers about its policies.

Harper said:

Unfortunately between 15 and 28 October 2013 some personal data was available on the Home Office website as part of a spreadsheet alongside the regular data set in error. This was identified by Home Office officials on 28 October 2013 and the personal information was removed immediately.

The personal data related to the names of 1,598 main applicants in the family returns process, their date of birth and limited details about their immigration case type and status. It did not include personal addresses or financial information.

The minster added that the Home Office had confessed to the cockup by notifying the Information Commissioner's Office of the breach. Harper claimed that measures had been implemented to prevent such a blunder recurring. Bods at Theresa May's department have also scanned the HO site to check for any similar errors that may have previously taken place.

Fewer than 30 people visited the relevant website page during the period when the sensitive data was exposed, Harper claimed.

A spokesman at the ICO told The Register that the watchdog had been informed of the clumsy mistake.

"We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken," he said. ®

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