Major Data Error in Northern Ireland puts officers and civilian staff at risk

A major data breach involving personal details of officers and civilian staff of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has left police fearing for their safety.

The police service mistakenly divulged the names, ranks, and other personal data in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

The “routine inquiry” had asked for a breakdown of the number of officers the PSNI has of each rank was published online, PSNI assistant chief constable Chris Todd said at a press briefing in Belfast on Tuesday.

The PSNI has apologised after a data breach of “monumental proportions” meant the force mistakenly published the names, ranks, locations and other personal data of every serving police officer and civilian employee.

“We’ve responded to that request, which was seeking to understand the total numbers of officers and staff at all ranks and grade across the organisation, and in the response, unfortunately, one of our colleagues has embedded the source data, which informed that request.” Mr Todd added.

The data from the PSNI’s ultra-confidential human resources system is a gold mine for terrorists, offering details of officers working in intelligence and other highly sensitive areas – including almost 40 PSNI staff based with MI5.

During a media briefing held at PSNI headquarters on the Knock Road, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Chris Todd apologised for the data breach and said the information had been online for around three hours. 

The material was wrongly published on the internet today by the PSNI in what was a described as a “human error” involving spreadsheet fields. Belfast Telegraph has more here.