This article is more than 1 year old

Exposed activist accuses Tiscali of putting life in peril

High Court threat for 'recklessly' publishing address

After threats to send police to the Stevenage office, in mid-September head office rang. It told the woman - by now aware she had been exposed for four months - that it was not possible to remove her number from the BT database provided to directory companies because her line was fully unbundled.

"During our conversation today, you have educated me as to why you need to have an ex-directory line," a Tiscali staffer said via email.

"Unfortunately, due to the fact that your line is [metallic path facility], we were unable to provide this technology at the time of provisioning."

Tiscali said it could shut down her line and change the number, but she replied this would not help, because her home address was already in the wild.

Then at the end of the month, after more calls to the Stevenage office, Richard Lawrence, then-deputy leader of Tiscali's high level complaints team, rang. He was keen for the woman to give a figure for a cash settlement to compensate for the distress caused.

"How much do you want?" he shouted, according to documents seen by The Register. "10,000? 20,000? 50,000? How much? Give me a figure?"

The woman declined to give a figure, telling Lawrence she would only be happy if Tiscali agreed to check its records for any other ex-directory numbers it had wrongly published. The September email from head office had suggested to her that Tiscali had a technical problem that meant it could not list fully unbundled lines as ex-directory. He refused.

It wasn't until November that Tiscali acted to remove the woman's address from the telephone directory, six months after it had first been told of its grave error.

Before Christmas, David Sanjivi, Tiscali's lawyer wrote to offer £600 compensation, which was immediately rejected. In February the offer was raised to £2,000, which was again rejected.

"She kept insisting that her main concern was about the safety of others and wanted Tiscali to thoroughly check their customer base and if they find they have placed numbers that should have been withheld, into the public domain," a source with knowledge of the case said.

"She spelled it out for him; Tiscali could get people killed, beaten up etc."

Her calls for a security check were unheeded however. Throughout the battle the woman had made strenuous efforts to warn former colleagues and contacts that her own location had been published, but she wanted Tiscali to check it had not place abused partners or people in witness protection in a similar position.

By March this year her claim against Tiscali was for £20,000 damages plus £2,500 costs. The company, meanwhile, demanded to know the detailed background of her involvement in national security.

"Did they really believe, having shown themselves to be without the integrity to be trusted with sensitive and highly confidential information, that she would just hand it all over?," a source said.

Via Westminster contacts, the woman instead took her story to the Information Commissioner's Office. In June a case officer wrote: "It is my assessment that it is unlikely that Tiscali has complied with the Data Protection Act in this case."

Tiscali declined to comment on the individual case. "If a registered letter was not responded to then we apologise, this is certainly not typical," it said in a statement. "We take the security of our customer data very seriously and are compliant with all legal requirements for data protection." ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like