Personal information belonging to officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has been posted on the wall opposite the the offices of political party Sinn Féin in what is believed to be an attempt to intimidate members of the police force. The information was part of a massive data leak suffered by the PSNI last week, when a Freedom of Information (FoI) request led to details of a “substantial number” of the PSNI’s 10,000 staff being posted online.
Some officers and support staff are reportedly scared to leave their homes following the leak, for fear that they will be targeted by criminals.
Data of PSNI employees posted opposite Sinn Féin office
Printed sheets showing roles, locations and shift patterns, but with the names of officers redacted, have been posted to the wall of a library opposite the offices of Sinn Féin on Monday, according to member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and Policing Board member Gerry Kelly.
A party member reported to Kelly this morning that a picture of him was posted alongside the documents, near a statement in large writing saying “Gerry, we know who your friends are.”
Kelly believes this to be a serious attempt to intimidate him. “Even more sinister, this is a very public indication that the dissidents do have access to the sensitive information in the data leak document, it therefore represents a very real threat to the officers, and the civilian staff involved,” Kelly said in comments to the Belfast Newsletter.
“I have of course reported this incident to the PSNI and I would appeal to anyone with information to bring that information forward.”
The implications of the PSNI data breach
The incident shows the widespread implications the PSNI data breach could have in Northern Ireland.
A routine FoI request was registered with the organisation but led to personal information on the majority of its employees being published online on August 8, where it remained for some hours before it was taken down. The breach may very well lead to “incalculable damage,” a statement from the national Police Federation said at the time.
Many members of the PSNI choose to keep their careers secret due to the political tensions in the province. “We operate in an environment, at the moment, where there is a severe threat to our colleagues from Northern Ireland-related terrorism,” assistant chief constable Chris Todd told the BBC. “I owe it to all my colleagues to investigate this thoroughly,” he continued.
A detailed investigation into these events has been launched by the PSNI. This week it was reported that over 1,000 police officers and staff members were referred to an emergency threat assessment group organised to provide security advice following the breach.
According to the Police Federation 2,905 police officers have already come forward expressing interest in legal action following the breach. Many employees at the PSNI have admitted they are becoming too scared to leave their homes, it has been reported. A civilian PSNI employee told reporters that the breach has “brought on a level of panic that hasn’t been around in a lot of years.”