Hackney council leaked thousands of locals' data in FoI blunder

Names, addresses and rental accounts outted in spreadsheet snafu

Thousands of Hackney residents are fuming after their personal information was leaked by the council online in a bungled Freedom of Information request.

Details including addresses, rental accounts and sexuality of 15,000 Hackney Homes tenants and leaseholders were available in full from the website What Do They Know for nearly two weeks before they were spotted. The error was noticed on November 25, but residents were only made aware of the breach in a letter this week.

“Hackney Homes and the Council takes data protection very seriously and we’re very sorry that this has happened,” Charlotte Graves, chief exec of Hackney Homes, said in a statement.

“As soon as we were made aware, we ensured the information was removed and wrote to those residents whose details were included. We have also taken immediate action to ensure it does not happen again.”

“Sadly the media is full of stories of people who’ve been scammed by sophisticated scams, so we want to remind residents to be extra careful, especially in the run-up to Christmas, when we’re all busier than usual,” she added.

The council has assured affected residents that the document was only viewed 11 times and the data wasn’t in plain sight.

“The details – which included names, some dates of birth, addresses and some information about rent payments but not bank details – were not visible to a casual viewer of the document, but were cached within it,” the council claimed.

“This means that an earlier version of the document – which contained the sensitive information – was accessible to those with detailed IT knowledge who could potentially manipulate the spreadsheet to reveal the information.”

But residents told the Hackney Gazette they weren’t happy.

“The information that was available on the website may be sold on. Residents and leaseholders are at risk of having their identities stolen,” said Hackney dweller Alan Zeligson.

Another resident, Henry Bulbrook, said: “I thought the letter was incredibly blasé. I’m sick at the moment so I’m on benefits. They have put a lot of people in peril.”

While a third, named only as Sandra, added: “I know that only 11 people viewed the document, but it only takes one or two bad people for this to be devastating. Lovely Christmas present from Hackney Homes.”

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) told El Reg that it was aware of the case and it was "making enquiries".

However, another London council made a similar FoI bungle last year and the ICO fined it £70,000. Islington Borough was hit by the monetary penalty in August, for leaking personal details of 2,000 residents in response to an FoI request that was also published on What Do They Know. ®


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