ICO condemns Motorman data publication

ICO condemns Motorman data publication

Summary: The Information Commissioner's Office has criticised the Guido Fawkes blog for publishing details of alleged requests made by hundreds of News International journalists for data from a private investigator.The Guido Fawkes blog, run by right-wing political commentator Paul Staines, published a redacted version of the Motorman Blue Book on Monday.

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The Information Commissioner's Office has criticised the Guido Fawkes blog for publishing details of alleged requests made by hundreds of News International journalists for data from a private investigator.

The Guido Fawkes blog, run by right-wing political commentator Paul Staines, published a redacted version of the Motorman Blue Book on Monday. The Motorman Operation was an Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) investigation into personal data acquired by the UK press via private investigators.

"We strongly condemn the irresponsible publication of material from the Motorman files," the ICO said in a statement on Tuesday. "Putting these into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people's privacy and raises more questions than it answers."

The redacted Motorman Blue Book files contain alleged requests made by journalists from Rupert Murdoch's News International publications including the Times, the Sun, and the News of the World to private investigator Stephen Whittamore.

The journalists allegedly made requests for information relating to a number of people, including celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, comedian Lee Evans, and actress Patsy Kensit.

The ICO started Operation Motorman in 2005 to look into alleged requests by publications to private investigators for personal information. In December 2006 the ICO revealed the publications that had made requests to private investigators in a report to parliament called 'What price privacy now?'.

The Daily Mail topped the list, with 58 journalists or clients using private investigators' services, for 952 transactions. The Daily Mirror, the Mail on Sunday, the Evening Standard and the Observer also appeared near the top of the list.

The ICO declined to name the journalists involved in January 2012 following an FOI request.

An ICO spokeswoman told ZDNet UK that the publication of the redacted Blue Book on Monday may have been a breach of the Data Protection Act (DPA).

"It looks to be an apparent breach," said the spokeswoman. "We want to investigate to see whether there has been a breach of the Data Protection Act. I'm not at liberty to say whether there will be an investigation."

The Guido Fawkes blog had previously requested the publication of redacted Motorman files, joining calls from the Hacked Off campaign for a public inquiry into phone hacking.

Hacked Off on Tuesday called for the Motorman files to be professionally redacted, and for victims to be proactively contacted by the ICO. In a separate guide to the publication of the files, Hacked Off said that different colour files denoted lists of different publications and journalists.

"The Blue Book is one of four in the Motorman set and lists transactions between the private investigator Steve Whittamore and mainly News International journalists," said the statement. "The others are Red (mainly Trinity Mirror Group), Green and Yellow (both mainly the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, with sister publications)."

The ICO spokeswoman said that the ICO would not contact alleged victims, but that people who were concerned that they may have appeared in the files could make a subject access request (SAR).

Operation Motorman examined links between private investigators and the police.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • Apart from revealing information which, in general, is in the public interest (to use a journalist term), Guido Fawkes' blog also reveals for how long 'state organisations supposed to be working in our interests' have sat on their fingers and done nothing or actually hindered proper investigation. Deplorable!
    The Former Moley