House of Lords to refer itself to UK’s information watchdog after accidentally broadcasting peers' telephone numbers

Members of the public heard contact details 

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Wednesday 29 April 2020 19:29 BST
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The House of Lords is expected to refer itself to the UK’s information watchdog after a blunder which saw peers’ telephone numbers accidentally broadcast.

Hundreds of thousands of members of the public are thought to have been able to hear the contact details, which were read out when peers entered or exited a virtual parliament session on Tuesday.

As it scrambled to deal with the data breach, the Lords cancelled plans to broadcast its proceedings live today.

It is understood the Lords is set to refer itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the fiasco.

Peers have also been told that the Lords will move from the current system, Microsoft Teams, to Zoom next week.

The decision to use the Microsoft video-conferencing programme had been controversial since it was first announced earlier this month.

Initially it was announced that virtual hearings of the Lords would not be televised at all for two weeks, with peers claiming the decision was based on technical limitations.

At the same time the House of Commons was able to roll out the use of Zoom to its 650 MPs.

In an email sent earlier today peers were told that from next Tuesday the House of Lords virtual proceedings would move “to a new platform to enable a high-quality broadcast output”.

They were also told that “for security and privacy reasons Zoom should only be used for public proceedings of the House and Select Committees. Microsoft Teams should continue to be used for other Parliamentary work including private meetings”.

A spokesman for the Lords said officials were currently assessing whether or not a report to the ICO is necessary.

However, it is expected that the Lords will refer itself to the ICO in a bid to ensure the incident is dealt with transparently.

The spokesman added: “As a precaution the Clerk of the Parliaments, who is the data controller for the House of Lords Administration, took the decision to suspend live broadcasting of today’s proceedings until we are fully satisfied that these issues have been tested and resolved. We expect tomorrow’s sitting to be broadcast live again.”

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