The list was briefly posted to a government website, allowing anyone who visited the page to download it as a spreadsheet, which contained postcodes and house numbers of nearly every person recognised in the list. It included celebrities such as TV chef Nadiya Hussain and cricketer Ben Stokes, senior politicians including Iain Duncan Smith, as well as senior police officers.
“A version of the New Year Honours 2020 list was published in error which contained recipients’ addresses,” a Cabinet Office spokesperson said. “The information was removed as soon as possible. We apologise to all those affected and are looking into how this happened. We have reported the matter to the ICO and are contacting all those affected directly.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed that it received the information from the government and is “making enquiries” in response to the reports of a data breach.
Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, told the Independent that “it’s extremely worrying to see that the government doesn’t have a basic grip on data protection and that people receiving some of the highest honours have been put at risk because of this.”
“It’s a farcical and inexcusable mistake, especially given the new Data Protection Act passed by the government last year – it clearly can’t stick by its rules,” he added.
In July the ICO announced its intention to fine British Airways £183m for a data breach, which will become the largest penalty ever issued by the regulator once the process is completed. The department later handed out an intention to fine the hotel chain Marriott International £99m after it admitted the guest records of around 339 million people had been accessed.