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IPC breaches data protection by revealing email addresses

The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has apologised after breaching data protection rules when it mistakenly revealed the email addresses of 911 recipients in correspondence about Covanta’s proposed Brig y Cwm energy-from-waste facility.

MRW has seen a letter signed by information access officer Chris Dagnan at the IPC complaints department. He apologises for the “serious mistake, which occurred as a result of an administrative error”.

The error happened on 21 June when email addresses of those interested parties regarding Covanta’s application to build an EfW plant in Merthyr Tydfil were not concealed. They were being informed of the submission of a Rule 8 letter, which is the formal decision from the IPC for development consent. An apology letter was emailed out on 24 June.

It says: “The IPC accepts that this was a breach of data protection principles, and of our own published policy commitment to protect personal information, and I am very sorry that you were affected in this way. We take this matter seriously and acknowledge that inconvenience or distress may have been caused by the visibility of email addresses.”

It explains that information was made available to all recipients but was limited to email addresses only. No email addresses were revealed on its website. The IPC said it will now use an alternative method to “ensure email addresses are not disclosed in this way in the future”.

Co-ordinator for anti-incineration group UK Without Incineration Network Shlomo Dowen was one of the recipients of the email. He said he would not be seeking any further action.

“Any damage has already been done, there’s no way to undo it,” he said. “It seems as though it is more of a case of embarrassment for the IPC. But I was more concerned that the original mistake was underplayed by the letter which said that the email was sent to a “limited group”, when actually 911 people does not seem very limited.”

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