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Constituents pen open letter to South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon following email slip up

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Dozens of south Norfolk residents, whose email addresses were accidentally shared by their MP, have put their signature to an open letter criticising him for his lack of responsiveness.

Last week, Richard Bacon MP sent out a single response to 86 residents who had complained to him, acknowledging that he had received their emails and asking those who had not included their residential address to send it.

Unbeknownst to him, the email addresses of all 86 senders were shared in his response – constituting a breach of data protection laws.

Bacon has served as MP for South Norfolk since 2001. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.
Bacon has served as MP for South Norfolk since 2001. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2021.

Shortly afterwards, he sent a follow-up asking all recipients to delete the previous email – but was unable to stop them from contacting one another and arranging to put together an open letter, which has been sent to the Conservative’s office.

The letter – penned by Robert Koebner, a retired scientist and one of those to have their email addresses shared by Mr Bacon – criticised the MP for not responding to his constituents, with 45 of the 86 residents putting their names to it.

It said: “In sharing our experiences, it quickly became apparent that quite a number of us have written to you fruitlessly in the past, never receiving any reply.

“So, your failure to engage with us on this particular occasion is clearly not an isolated incident, but rather a modus operandi which has been in existence for many years.”

Mr Koebner, 68, said the data breach had served as a blessing in disguise, allowing frustrated constituents to come together and mobilise.

He said: “It was a feeling of frustration, but it also felt like an opportunity, because it put us in contact with everybody else.”

“I kicked things off by suggesting that we send an email to him, complaining about his lack of responsiveness. I put together this letter and asked everybody if they would be prepared to put their names to it, and about 50 per cent said yes.”

Mr Bacon, who has served the South Norfolk constituency since 2001, immediately reported himself to the ICO, the data watchdog, following the breach.

Following the incident last week, he released a statement, which said: “We deal with thousands of emails every month and this is the first time this error has occurred.

“I apologise for it and continue to help my constituents with the matters they have raised.

“Unfortunately, the use of social media has increased the frequency with which emails arrive for my attention, which contain inaccurate and sometimes very distorted versions of what is taking place in Parliament.

“This phenomenon, combined with the recent high volume of emails on these topics, has meant that it has taken longer than usual to send an individual reply to each constituent.”

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