Abuse survivor says Rotherham Council’s data breach put her at risk from violent ex

A WOMAN who fled an abusive relationship says Rotherham Borough Council has put her at risk after a data error led to her email address being shared with her ex-partner.

The woman’s email address was one of the 897 email addresses which were mistakenly copied into a message sent by the selective licensing team.

The council referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office over the error surrounding the emails, which related to a landlords forum — but has now been cleared of any wrongdoing, although it was told to put stronger checks in place.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said the private email addresses of herself and her ex-partner had been included in the breach and she now feared he would contact her.

“I contacted the council and told them it might just be an email address to you, but there’s an ex on that list that I didn’t want getting hold of that email,” she said.

“I feel like they have let me down as I asked them previously not to involve me in these meetings, to take me off the forum and to only contact me about the property.

“I’ve not had a response from them.”

The authority apologised to the 897 recipients by email 24 hours after the error.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The fact that I am a landlord is a private matter,” added the woman, who said her partner physically abused her and admitted to a charge of harassment.

“I am a landlord through circumstance — I didn’t do it to make money. I want a proper apology and want to know it won’t happen again.

“When I saw the breach, I had to change my email address straight away — I thought: ‘Why have I had to do this? It was so distressing.

“I told the council to only ever contact me by letter — I don’t ever want them to contact me over email again.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I also never gave the council my email address — I manage this property through an agency in Rotherham

“One day, they wrote to me at home. I asked how they had got hold of my address and they said they could use other departments to get your address.

“It’s made me think about getting rid of the property and its opened old wounds again as it’s a link to him (her ex-partner). 

“All sorts of things have been running through my mind.

“When I left (Rotherham), I left everything. I didn’t even initially tell my family I was leaving. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I still haven’t given my own mother my phone number because she writes things down, so I just phone her.

“I felt like I was moving on from the abuse and was rebuilding my life.”

Tom Smith, the council’s assistant director for community safety and street scene, said: 

“We apologise to the people affected by the unintentional data breach. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Following the referral of the breach, the Information Commissioner's Office have now finished their investigation and will not be taking any action against the council.  

“However, they have recommended the council consider putting more robust checks in place and further training for staff involved in this kind of work to prevent this happening again.

Landlords in selective licensing areas are required by law to register with the council and must provide contact details as part of their application. 

“In this individual case, we will contact the landlord to review their preferred method of contact for future mailing lists.”