ICO acts on claims of celebrity flight leaks

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REPORTS that an employee of Virgin Atlantic passed on the details of celebrities’ flights to a paparazzi agency are to be investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Princess Beatrice and Madonna’s children are reportedly among almost 70 famous figures whose flight information appears to have been handed to London-based Big Pictures.

The accused employee, a relatively junior member of staff at the airline, resigned in the wake of the accusation but is understood to deny the claims.

An ICO spokeswoman said: “The ICO takes all breaches of the Data Protection Act seriously. Any organisation processing personal information in the UK must ensure they comply with the law. We will need to make further inquiries to establish the precise nature of the alleged incident before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken by this office.”

Other celebrities whose flight details may have been passed to Big Pictures include Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole; his former wife and singer Cheryl Cole; Tottenham footballer Jermain Defoe; actresses Sienna Miller, Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow; and singers Robbie Williams and Nicole Scherzinger.

A Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said: “The allegations that have been raised are extremely serious and we have launched an immediate investigation. We have robust processes in place to ensure that passenger information is protected.

“The incident that has been alleged concerns eight customers’ flights booked in 2010 and we are in contact with all of those people. It is too early to draw conclusions… but of course we would deeply regret any concern that these allegations may cause the individuals involved.”

A source at the airline Sir Richard Branson launched in 1984 said it was scanning through e-mail archives and investigating who could access its booking system.