Northern Ireland news

Campaign group Liberty hits out at data breach

The data breach involved in a pen drive left in a device

RIGHTS group Liberty has described the breach of private citizens' data as "deeply alarming".

Material contained on a pen drive, believed to belong to police, was accidentally left in a device recently handed back to loyalists under investigation.

The data, seen by The Irish News, appears to show personal details of people and businesses from a number of internet service providers.

In April this year three appeal court judges ordered the British government to change parts of the Investigatory Powers Act that permitted private citizens' internet usage to be monitored and stored, ruling it was not compatible with EU law.

Liberty crowdfunded the legal challenge against the act, arguing that by storing sensitive personal information the government was placing private citizens at risk from criminal hackers and foreign spies.

Hannah Couchman, policy officer for Liberty, said yesterday that The Irish News revelations were "deeply alarming", claiming it "reveals the police's negligent attitude towards our privacy rights".

A former criminal law barrister, Ms Couchman said: "It is shocking they are amassing enormous quantities of people's personal data in the first place, but then failing to take obvious steps to ensure its security is indefensible.

"Enormous data breaches likes this erode public trust in the police, especially when there has been no transparency around how they came to have this treasure trove of information.

"The police must now notify everyone whose data rights have been violated and then submit to an urgent investigation into its data collection practices."

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