PSNI data breach: security blunder could do 'incalculable damage' says Police Federation

The unauthorised release of PSNI data revealing the names, roles and where officers are based has caused “shock and anger” in the ranks, the chair of the Police Federation has said.
Liam Kelly. Police Federation NI chair. Photo: PALiam Kelly. Police Federation NI chair. Photo: PA
Liam Kelly. Police Federation NI chair. Photo: PA

Following reports of the breach on Tuesday, Liam Kelly said an urgent inquiry is required – and he said he wants to hear from the chief constable and his senior colleagues with details of the steps they intend taking to limit the potential damage.

In a Freedom of Information request sent to the PSNI last Thursday (August 3), the request stated: “Could you please provide me with the number of officers and staff at each rank or grade distinguishing between how many are substantive/temporary/acting as of 01/08/2023. Could you please provide this information in the form of tables for officers and tables for staff.”

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The home addresses of the officers and staff are not included in the released spreadsheets.

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Mr Kelly said: “This is a breach of monumental proportions. Even if it was done accidentally, it still represents a data and security breach that should never have happened.

“Rigorous safeguards ought to have been in place to protect this valuable information which, if in the wrong hands, could do incalculable damage.

“The men and women I represent are appalled by this breach. They are shocked, dismayed and justifiably angry. Like me, they are demanding action to address this unprecedented disclosure of sensitive information.”

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Mr Kelly added: “We have many colleagues who do everything possible to protect their police roles. We’re fortunate that the PSNI spreadsheet didn’t contain officer and staff home addresses, otherwise we would be facing a potentially calamitous situation.

“Inadequate or poor oversight of FOI procedures must be addressed and addressed urgently. New safeguards are obviously required to prevent this from ever happening again.”

At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd has said there is no immediate security concerns arising from the PSNI data breach.

Mr Todd clarified that every serving police officer and member of police staff has had data compromised.

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“In terms of the security for individuals, there’s nothing at the moment to suggest there’s any immediate security concerns, but we have put actions in place to ensure that if anything does arise we will be aware of that, and then we can mitigate accordingly.”

He added: “This is human error.

“We’ve looked into the circumstances, we’ll continue with our investigation, but the very early considerations are that this is simple human error and the people who have been involved in the process have acted in good faith.

“We’ve identified some steps that we can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

“It is regrettable but it is simple human error.”