The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is investigating a data breach in which the names, work locations and roles of its employees were published in error.
The PSNI said that the breach resulted from information included in error in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
The data contained the surnames and initials of current employees, alongside the location and department within which they work. It did not include their personal addresses.
The PSNI officer in charge of information risk, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd, said that the force appreciated the concern that the leak would cause to colleagues and their families, and would do all that it could to mitigate such concerns.
“An initial notification has been made to the office of the Information Commissioner regarding the data breach,” he said, adding that the breach was being “actively reviewed” to identify any security issues.
“The information was taken down very quickly. Although it was made available as a result of our own error, anyone who did access the information before it was taken down is responsible for what they do with it next,” said Todd.
According to the BBC, the FOI request came from a member of the public, and asked only for the number of officers and staff at all ranks and grades across the PSNI.
‘Dismay and anger’
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents PSNI staff, expressed “dismay and anger” at the breach.
Its chair Liam Kelly described the incident as “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,” he said.
Kelly said that those represented by the federation were “shocked, dismayed and justifiably angry”.
The leader of the Alliance Party Naomi Long, who is a former justice minister at Stormont, told RTÉ's Morning Ireland police officers, civilian staff, and their families would be feeling “incredibly vulnerable and exposed” in the days ahead.
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said that the data breach could put lives in danger, and asked why safeguards were not in place to prevent such a breach happening.
The DUP’s Trevor Clarke said that some officers had been forced into revealing their occupation to their families.