Northern Irish police accidentally exposes data of all its staff

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) accidentally shared the personal details of its 10,000 staff members. The Officers’ trade union say the breach caused “incalculable damage.”

The details of every police officer and civilian working for the institution were revealed in an error when responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd, the PSNI’s senior information risk owner, explained in a statement.

“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. It is important that data anyone has accessed is deleted immediately,” Constable Todd said.

The PSNI’s statement says the accidentally leaked data only included the surnames and initials of current employees and the location and department within which they work. However, the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), a representative body resembling a trade union for officers, said that staff numbers and roles were also exposed.

The Chair of the PFNI, Liam Kelly, dubbed the breach of “monumental proportions,” adding that even if it was accidental, it’s still a major security issue that should not have happened in the first place.

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

So far, the PSNI and PFNI say that officers’ and staff home addresses or other personal details were not revealed in the breach, somewhat limiting the potential fallout from data exposure.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Groups advocating for unification with the Republic of Ireland and those for staying in the Union have been at odds for decades. According to local media, officers face real threats from militant groups and should be vigilant about their security.

The BBC reported that Some PSNI officers from pro-Republican regions tend to keep their employment a secret to avoid repercussions back home.