PERSONAL information belonging to 900 people has been widely shared by a council in a massive data protection breach.

Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has apologised for the blunder and reported itself to the independent body responsible for upholding information rights.

The gaffe occurred when the authority e-mailed renewal reminders to 900 people who subscribe to kerbside garden waste collections.

All of the messages sent on Friday included the e-mail addresses of every single recipient, most of which contained their names.

Sally Smith, of Ruishton, was shocked when the message arrived in her inbox, and the slip-up was compounded seven minutes later when she she received a ‘recall’ request from SWT, which also contained the 900 addresses.

“It identified lots of people. Then to send all those details again a few minutes later is unacceptable,” said Mrs Smith.

“Those e-mails have personal details. To send that to 900 people is completely contrary to the Data Protection Act.

“I spoke to the council about it. They said, ‘It was a mistake. Sorry. We’re investigating’.

“It feels like there’s no accountability. I accept people make mistakes, but there’s a law requiring people to keep personal data confidential.

“That hasn’t happened here. It’s made people vulnerable.”

SWT governance manager and monitoring officer Amy Tregellas has contacted the 900 e-mail recipients apologise, saying the e-mail addresses were “visible when they should have been hidden”.

She said: “This error was reported and has been investigated as a data breach.

“The council apologises to you and wishes to assure you that action is being taken to ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future.

“Staff refresher training training will be carried out to highlight this error and an e-mail has been sent to all staff to remind them of the procedure when sending e-mails.

“We will also put in place a secondary checking procedure which will take place before the e-mail is sent.”

A SWT spokesman said: “As a result of an e-mail sent to 900 customers regarding garden waste, all e-mail addresses remained visible to all recipients.

“We have sent a letter of apology to all customers that received the e-mail and will ensure staff receive extra training and support where required.

We have reported ourselves to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

SWT e-mails contain a message informing recipients that it is “committed to protecting your privacy when you use our services”.

The council’s website says: “We have a data protection officer who makes sure we respect your rights and follow the law.”