The data watchdog says an investigation into Newcastle's Citizen's Advice Bureau could take up to a year. The charity accidentally published hundreds of files of personal information. They included debt histories and criminal records.
The criminal records and debt history of hundreds of people in the North East have been accidentally published on the internet by an advice service, in what could be a major breach of the Data Protection Act.
The watchdog on data and information is now investigating, after Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau inadvertently released more than 1,000 confidential files.
Dan Ashby has been following the story.
The Citizens Advice Bureau also accidentally published staff log-in details to access their website.
Ironically they also accidentally published letters assuring clients that their advice was strictly confidential.
The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has issued a statement saying people can still speak to them in total confidence, as it opened an investigation into a possible data protection breach.
– Shona Alexander, Chief Executive, Newcastle CAB
“This isolated incident at Newcastle CAB is being thoroughly investigated. I’d like to reassure people that, because we take data protection extremely seriously, they can speak to us in total confidence - all Newcastle CAB staff and volunteers are fully trained in Information Assurance
Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau has accidentally published 1,300 files on the internet, including clients' names, addresses, debt histories and criminal records.
The Information Commissioner's Office has confirmed it is looking into the possible data protection breach.
Shoppers in the centre of Newcastle had something of a surprise when one of the city's best known landmarks briefly altered its appearance.
A giant 40 foot scarf was placed around the Grey's monument to highlight the work of the Citizens Advice Bureau. It was knitted by a volunteer and is made up of a quarter of a million stitches.
The Bureau used the event to encourage people to stay warm this winter and to get help if they have financial worries. Shona Alexander, the Chief Executive of Newcastle CAB, said, "Earl Grey was a big social reformer and we think he would want to help us in this work."
The Bureau says its advice is free, impartial and confidential.
The Citizen's Advice Bureau is urging people who are worried about the cost of keeping warm this winter to make sure they are getting the best deal on the fuel bills, and contact them if they need help.
As part of its Big Energy Saving Week, the CAB is telling people to "check, switch and insulate", as energy costs continue to rise.