Security fear over guide to directors' addresses

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad is investigating a new electronic guide that provides the home addresses and locator maps of two million company directors, including politicians and celebrities.

The directory was condemned as irresponsible yesterday amid warnings that stalkers, terrorists and violent protesters could use the information to target individuals and their families.

The computer disk contains information on 2.7 million companies and 3.8 million directors, including details of their wages, company profits, and who they live with. Among the people listed are politicians such as Jack Straw, Ken Livingstone and Chris Patten, businessmen Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and Mohamed Al Fayed, and celebrities such as Elton John and Jeffrey Archer. Many of the people named on the CD-Rom, which costs £229.95, have their home addresses listed and a street map showing exactly where they live and the quickest way to get there.

It also provides details of anyone aged over 18 registered as living at the same address, leading to fears that kidnappers might use the information.

A member of the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist squad said he was disturbed by details of the database. The officer said he would be checking to see if the information on the CD-Rom posed a serious security risk to individuals.

Ruth Lea, head of the policy unit at the Institute of Directors, also condemned the disk, saying it left those listed open to attacks from groups such as anti-vivisectionists targeting drug company bosses.

"I am very concerned that people's home addresses will be published," she said. "We have had reports of directors being violently targeted by anti-capitalist campaigners, animal rights activists and environmentalists. This guide is also perfect for stalkers or troublemakers."

The information is culled from details given about firms registered at Companies House, and from the electoral roll and existing business directories. Alastair Crawford, managing director of i-CD Publishing, which compiled the UK-Info Power disk, said: "If criminals want to commit a crime we may save them half an hour, but if they are determined they would find the information anyway. You don't get hitmen going back to their clients and saying 'Sorry, I couldn't find his address'."

The company has also been criticised for incorporating a route-finder in the CD-Rom which could be used to map directors' paths to work.

Mr Crawford said the directory was "very bad news indeed for the slippery, the fly-by-night, and the rip-off merchant who would prefer that the less known about them the better. The fact that their unfortunate customers now know where they live may do more for consumer care than any amount of corporate spin-doctoring".

In February, the publishing company was dragged into the Jill Dando murder inquiry after it emerged that a man used its website, 192.com, to look up the Crimewatch presenter's address. Police later eliminated the man from their inquiries.

Professor Paul Wilkinson, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University, said terrorists were always looking for new sources of information about potential targets. He said: "Computer databases are an added resource to them and one of the costs of modern technology."

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