Back in 2009, in the bad old days of daft legislation (sic), one of my favourite quango’s, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, launched its latest brain dead salvo.
They decreed that in order to stop the bullying and discriminatory behaviour towards those whose sexual orientation was different:
The Equality Bill will introduce a new single public sector equality duty. For the first time, public authorities will have the responsibility to ensure that their services are properly meeting the needs of every part of the population – including lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It will mean a significant shift in culture.
All well and good. In order to ascertain how many people in each area were liable to be bullied or subject to homophobic discrimination, it was considered essential that local councils should know who was at risk of this treatment. Naturally there was an
app law for that.
Instead of assuming that they are meeting different people’s needs, authorities will need to gather evidence and undertake analysis to be sure that they are. […] When it comes to sexual orientation, the state lacks the basic facts. There isn’t even a robust figure on how many lesbian, gay and bisexual people there are. Government works on the basis of 5 to 7 per cent of the population. That’s a margin of uncertainty of more than a million people. Not good enough.
There were doubting naysayers at the time, who expressed anxiety that such confidential information could land up in the wrong hands.
However, the fact that LGB people feel that they can’t be open about their sexual orientation in their local neighbourhood, that LGB students still experience unacceptably high levels of bullying, and that LGB people would not even consider certain jobs for fear of other people’s reaction, is a worrying sign that prejudice and discrimination still limit people’s choices and chances in life. […] Some people fear that they will be forced to reveal personal information they regard as private; many are concerned that it will fall into the wrong hands. Those are understandable anxieties.
Perfectly correct anxieties, it turns out. What did Islington council do with this sensitive information once it had got its hands on it?
Town hall officers managed to leak the names, addresses, relationship status, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual preferences of 2,400 people re-housed by the council.
The highly-sensitive dossier of supremely private information was freely accessible to the public for a full 19 days, from the WhatDoTheyKnow website as a result of a Freedom of Information request.
I understand that this report is now freely available on several bit.torrent sites, for downloading by any interested party. A prize to whoever spots the first tort launched at Islington council for revealing exactly which of their citizens were re-housed for reasons of sexual orientation or religion……