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Cambridgeshire County Council apologises for sharing residents’ data in Mill Road Bridge email

Cambridgeshire County Council has apologised to about 300 people whose emails it accidentally shared when sending out a message about the closure of Mill Road bridge.

The local authority was contacting people who had commented on a proposal to close the bridge to most motorised traffic.

Mill Road br
Mill Road br

Residents both for and against the move got in touch with the council to express their opinions but were horrified to discover their personal email addresses had been sent out in a round robin email from the local authority on Wednesday, June 14.

The original message said: “This is to notify you that the TRO (Traffic Regulation Order [Bus Gate]) for Mill Road, Cambridge has been made and will duly come into operation on the 16th October 2023.”

It was signed by a policy engineer from transport strategy and network management team at the county council.

However, then the sender tried to retract the email and accidentally made the all of the recipients’ email addresses visible.

One reader who received the message said: “I was very concerned that my private email address had been shared with so many other people. This has been a contentious subject locally and I didn’t want it shared that I had made a comment.

“Also it can put you at risk of other security problems if people have your email address.”

Mill Road bridge in Cambridge will be closed to most private cars after Cambridgeshire County Council agreed at a highways and transport committee meeting in March to reintroduce a bus gate. The closure will take place from October after the council issued the official Transport Regulation Order on June 14.

The authority hopes the restrictions will encourage people to choose ‘sustainable travel options’, such as cycling and walking.

A number of exemptions are planned, including for buses, cyclists, pedestrians, taxis, blue badge holders and authorised vehicles. This follows a consultation held by the county council in which people were invited to comment on the closure.

After the email gaffe was revealed, the county council has since apologised to those affected. They told them by email that the data breach had been an accident and that the council had referred itself to the Information Commissioner.

The apology stated: “The information was emailed to over 1,000 people yesterday afternoon in several batches. Whilst the other emails were all addressed correctly so that the addresses could not be seen, unfortunately in this case, the To field was used in error rather than the BCC field as intended. This resulted in the email addresses being included for everyone who received the email.

“The incident was immediately reported to our Data Protection Team who have provided support and investigated the incident. I can confirm that we have reported the data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we will assist them fully with any enquiries that they deem necessary in response. We are reviewing our procedures on sending out emails to learn lessons and to reduce the risk of any reoccurrence.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: “We would like to apologise to those people whose email addresses were not blind copied when they were sent information regarding Mill Road Traffic Regulation Order. We have referred this error to the Information Commissioner, and we will be apologising to those affected. It was human error, and it has been picked up internally with the team.”

One of the residents affected by the email disclosure said: “Personally I am satisfied as I have to admit I am also someone who has accidentally made mistakes at work - and I blame the council, rather than the individual concerned who sounds like he was quite stressed at the time sent the email. I very much hope there will be no long-term ramifications for me and everyone else whose email addresses were shared.

“I think it’s good the council owned up to the mistake and has apologised, and reported the breach to the commissioner. I hope the council will learn from this and put measures in place to prevent it from happening again.”

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