Cabinet Office fined £500,000 for posting New Year Honours addresses

Cabinet office fined

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The Cabinet Office has been fined half a million pounds after mistakenly publishing the names and full postal addresses of New Year Honours recipients, including Sir Elton John and senior members of the police force.

The incident happened at the end of 2019 when a file containing information relating to over 1,000 people due to receive an award was uploaded to an official website. They included the addresses of Sir Elton John, cricketer Ben Stokes, senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith, TV chefs Nadiya Hussain and Ainsley Harriot, broadcaster Gabby Logan, Grease actress Olivia Newton-John and former director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders.

The file was downloadable and appeared on the government’s website at 10.30 pm on Friday 27 December. It took two hours and 21 minutes for it to be removed. The report into the incident that saw the Cabinet Office fined showed that the file was accessed 3,872 times from 2,798 unique IP addresses, mostly within the first half an hour from when it was published.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was then told of the leak while the government contacted and apologised to all those affected. The staff of the Cabinet Office then had to work 12-hour days for a fortnight just to answer the questions they received from the people who had their information compromised.

Publishing its ruling on Thursday, the ICO said it found the Cabinet Office “failed to put appropriate technical and organisational measures in place to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of people’s information”.

“This is a breach of protection law,” it said. The ICO initially planned to fine the Cabinet Office £600,000 but after the department said it had apologised, most of the addresses were already readily accessible, and it has taken action to rectify faults, the fine was lowered to £500,000 – payable by 14 December.

The money will go into the government’s general bank account at the Bank of England.

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Written by

Claire Gordon