Excerpt from The Hindu News Article, Published on Dec 13, 2023 

The UK’s Ministry of Defence faces a £350,000 fine following a data breach exposing the personal information of 265 Afghan individuals seeking refuge from the Taliban, announced UK data commissioner John Edwards. The breach, decried as deeply regrettable, compromised email addresses, with 55 individuals having thumbnail pictures openly shared on their profiles.

The incident unfolded in September 2021 amid the chaotic Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, revealing email addresses—including those of Afghan interpreters eligible for relocation—in the visible “to” field rather than being blind-copied.

Former Defense Minister Ben Wallace publicly apologized, confirming the suspension of one official. Criticism mounted over the UK’s evacuation plan, citing “systemic failures of leadership, planning, and preparation,” leading to vulnerable Afghans left behind, potentially facing peril due to disclosed embassy details in Kabul.

Edwards highlighted the breach’s severity, emphasizing the risk of reprisals and serious harm to those affected. Acknowledging the challenging circumstances, Edwards stressed the imperative need for protecting personal information, especially for individuals at heightened risk.

The ICO reduced the fine due to the MoD’s swift response, initially set at £1,000,000 but lowered given the Ministry’s immediate actions and its public body status. The MoD affirmed revamping its protocols in response to the breach.

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