Newcastle City Council confirmed a data protection breach has taken place.
On 15 June 2017, an employee in the council's adoption team accidentally attached an internal spreadsheet to emails inviting adoptive parents to the council's annual adoption summer party.
The email and attachment were sent to 77 people.
This attachment contained personal details relating to 2,743 individuals, comprising current and former adoptees, parents and social workers who had been involved with these families.
The spreadsheet included personal information such as names, addresses and the birthdates of the adopted children.
Adoptive father and social worker Al Coates told ITV News many families will be "anxious" tonight.
In a statement the council said it was "... deeply concerned to learn of this breach."
These measures include:
- Contacting the 77 people who were sent the email requesting they delete the information to avoid it circulating further
- Putting in place a process to contact as many of those affected as possible by phone and letter
- Setting up a helpline and related counselling services to assist anyone with concerns
- Informing relevant regulators
- Commencing a review of data protection across the council and running refresher training courses for all staff with access to sensitive information
- Instigating a broader review of policies to ensure that no such breach can take place in the future.
Director of People, Ewen Weir, said:
Cyber security expert, Professor Alastair Irons, from the University of Sunderland told ITV News "sensitive information like that should really be looked after much more carefully, looking at routines if they're going to attach it to an email, to double check that it should be attached to email. For example, the files could be encrypted themselves or even the records could be encrypted on their own so that if they did go out by mistake that nobody can make any sense of them".
Anyone involved with Newcastle’s Adoption Service who has concerns can call the council’s dedicated helpline on 0191 211 5562 for further information.