SCOTTISH Borders Council (SBC) has issued a statement apologising “unreservedly” after hundreds of people’s personal information was released in a data breach.
SBC is currently in the process of alerting around 1,300 Borderers about their eligibility for a £75 coronavirus hardship payment.
However, during the process of letting people know their eligibility for the scheme, three emails were sent to “multiple individuals” showing the email addresses of all recipients.
A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise unreservedly to all our customers affected by this data breach and for any distress or embarrassment this has caused.
“Those customers who have received an email which includes others’ email addresses are asked to delete it. All payments will be made as planned to these individuals.
“Individual email addresses were disclosed, this is personal information.
“The content of the email also outlined that eligibility for the payment was due to the receipt of free school meals, which we absolutely appreciate is a sensitive matter for individuals.
“We are taking the incident very seriously and have discussed it with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
“We are taking steps to put in place a technical solution to minimise the chances of a similar incident occurring again.”
One of the people who was affected by the data breach contacted this newspaper regarding the incident.
“This is unacceptable,” said the person, who has asked to remain anonymous. “Their solution is to just delete the email?! Do they seriously think everyone will do that?
“It was regarding a £75 payment for hardship due to COVID. That makes everyone who has had information leaked now known for needing a hardship payment!”
A relative of one of the people affected, who also asked to remain anonymous, said: “It’s utterly disgusting.
“I don’t know how Scottish Borders Council could be so clumsy.”
The council is asking anyone “with any specific additional concerns” to contact its data protection team on email@example.com or call 0300 100 1800.
A council spokesperson added: “All those eligible for the payment will be contacted to confirm eligibility before the end of this week.”