News International offices in Wapping

News International: transactions with private investigator Steve Whittamore have been leaked

Credit: Roger Jones on Geograph. Some rights reserved

A group representing some of the alleged victims of tabloid malpractice has stepped up its campaign for the Operation Motorman files to be published "as soon as possible", after part of the data was leaked online last night.

Hacked Off said in a statement that it was not involved in the initiative and was not in possession of the files, which list thousands of transactions by newspaper journalists seeking personal information including ex-directory telephone numbers and vehicle registrations from private investigator Steve Whittamore.

The campaigners said the latest leak strengthened the case for the full documents to be professionally redacted and officially made public - to avoid giving "a partial and possibly misleading or unfair picture of press data-mining".

The spreadsheet, published last night on the Guido Fawkes blog, listed more than 1,000 transactions from News International journalists that were logged in a book by Whittamore, whose home was raided by police in 2003 and who was later convicted of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.

Whittamore had three other books, logging transactions from the other major newspaper groups. Not all of the requests are illegal - many are within the law or are a breach of the Data Protection Act which can be justified in some cases with a public interest defence.

The Information Commissioner's Office condemned the "irresponsible" leak. It said in a statement: "Putting these into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people's privacy and raises more questions than it answers.

"The issue of publication is being considered by the Leveson Inquiry and it's most unfortunate that Guido Fawkes has chosen to jump the gun. The ICO will now consider what further steps it should take in the face of this apparent breach of the DPA."

Hacked Off, which has been campaigning for the Leveson inquiry to make the Motorman files public, said in a statement this morning: "Our view is that the full files should be professionally redacted and published in as clear a manner as possible by either the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) or the Leveson Inquiry, and the ICO should proactively contact the victims.

"It is important to note that the complete files are already in the hands of the inquiry and all of the national newspaper groups, and that many other people have had access to parts of the files.

"This material is a secret only from the public and in our view partial disclosures of this kind, and of the kind published by ITN days earlier, were inevitable given the official refusal to redact and disclose.

"To avoid the emergence of a partial and possibly misleading or unfair picture of press data-mining, that official position should be reversed promptly and a commitment should be given to publish as soon as possible a complete version of the Motorman records, with only those redactions that are necessary to protect the privacy of those who were intruded upon.

"This would also enable the inquiry to look much more closely at the issue of data protection, in line with its terms of reference, that has so far not been properly examined. This, and recent evidence demonstrating these practices are not historic, ought to be reviewed urgently by the inquiry."

A recent leak of Motorman data to ITV News suggests national newspapers spent more than £1.2 million obtaining confidential information from Whittamore from 1995 to 2003.

The data from Operation Motorman was used as the basis for a extensive public report by the information commissioner six years ago, What Price Privacy?

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