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Tory-run Wandsworth Council was this morning at the centre of a massive data protection scandal – after it emailed 45,000 strangers’ names, addresses and voting instructions to other residents.
The extraordinary mistake happened yesterday afternoon and saw information of random other individuals sent out ahead of elections.
It is understood even those who had opted out of the open register could have had their details distributed.
The huge breach – sent by its Electoral Services department – raises the prospect of allowing identity theft and potentially security concerns.
A number of famous high-profile names also live in the borough and may also have had their personal information shared.
Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid and Sadiq Khan are known to have properties there, but it is not known if their details were emailed out.
Last night the Information Commissioner’s Office was informed by Wandsworth about the wide-ranging error. The ICO did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
The council apologised but tried to play down the mistake, saying the information was already available to view in the public domain if people chose to go to view the electoral register.
But one Wandsworth resident told MailOnline: ‘I don’t want people to know my address because I have a sensitive job.
‘When I received an email from the council with someone else’s name and address on it, my first thought was “Well, who has been sent mine?”.
Then Prime Minister Theresa May with supporters during a visit to Wandsworth Town Hall, London, where the Conservative Party retained control of Wandsworth Council in the local elections in 2018. The new elections are coming up in two months’ time.
E-mails like the one above containing a name and address was sent to another random person
Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid and Sadiq Khan are known to live in Wandsworth, but it is not known if their details were emailed out
‘I can see it’s happened to other people as well – they need to come clean about what has gone wrong here.
‘Them saying it is already in the public domain on the electoral register is missing the point, people have to make an effort to view that and often you have to sign in to look at it – here the council has just emailed data to people’s inboxes without any checks whatsoever.
‘It’s one thing information being available in the public domain if you chose to look for it, but quite another thing the council actively distributing it to random people.’
Once the council had discovered what had happened a follow-up email was sent urging people to delete the message containing the data.
It read: ‘We are writing to apologise once more for you being sent information in error in an earlier email today, which we’d be grateful if you would now delete.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron with Wandsworth Council Leader Ravi Govindi
Wandsworth has a population of 329,677 and 45,000 are known to have details shared
‘We understand that you may be concerned to have received someone else’s details. ‘Please note that if you have previously chosen to opt out of the “open” electoral register you cannot opt out of the public register and so all of the information you were sent is available on that public register. ‘We are continuing our investigation of the issue to ensure this does not happen again and we are discussing the matter and will be taking further advice from the Information Commissioner’s Office, we will of course abide by that advice as needed.’
It is not clear whether the named person in the wrong data email had received the same information belonging to that recipient.
Wandsworth Council Electoral services was not responding last night to emails from those affected asking how many people had been sent their information.
But Labour councillor Simon Hogg said it had been nearly 50,000.
He said: ‘The council tells me that today 45,000 emails to voters notifying them of their polling station have been sent to the wrong email address
‘This is obviously unacceptable. The council is writing to all the people affected to apologise.’
The council posted a statement on Twitter apologising.
It read: ‘We are aware of an issue with emails sent out to some residents today in relation to the local elections which contained incorrect information.
‘We’d first of all like to apologise to those people who have mistakenly received this information and can confirm we are investigating this matter to make sure it cannot happen again.
‘We would like to reassure residents that the information contained in these emails is all publicly available in the borough’s electoral register, which is an open document that can be inspected by any member of the public at any time during the year.
‘The emails did not contain any other information beyond what is already in the public domain.
‘We are seeking advice from the relevant data authorities and will of course act on any further guidance they provide.’
Source: Daily Mail