Kensington & Chelsea Council has been battered by the Information Commissioner’s Office after a bungled Freedom of Information request saw the names of nearly a thousand people who owned vacant homes in the borough released to journalists, in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The story was published about six weeks after the fire, which claimed 71 lives in June last year and left hundreds homeless. A public outcry forced the issue of empty homes into the spotlight, with many people arguing these properties could be used to house survivors.
An ICO investigation found that council officials “did not intend” to release the information but did so accidentally while compiling separate data-sets.
One of the journalists who received the 943 names and addresses published them online. Owners of the properties listed included Ukrainian billionaire Dmytro Firtash, former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior TV executive.
At least one of the people named was then visited following publication of their details online, escalating the scale of the breach in the eyes of the watchdog.
In its ruling, the ICO said it was a “serious contravention” of data protection law “that was likely to cause substantial damaged”, citing the number of people involved and a failure to have adequate safeguards. The council was hit with a £120,000 fine.
The council self-reported the breach to the ICO and co-operated with the inquiry. A Kensington & Chelsea Council spokeswoman said: “It was an error and we apologise. We accept the fine, and we have reviewed our processes to prevent this happening again.”
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