back to article Exposed activist accuses Tiscali of putting life in peril

A woman who passed national security information to UK authorities spent six months in fear for her life, after Tiscali published her phone number and address in public directories, despite repeated requests to keep the information secret. Tiscali now faces broad questions about the safety of its other ex-directory subscribers …


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  1. Andrew Austin

    Maybe Tiscali just waited...

    for the (P)IRA to bump her off. End of problem.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    There is no doubting that Tiscali cocked up but...

    it isn't as if they have posted an image of her on the directory enquiries with references to her previous names. If you've changed your name, changed your address, not passed on your details to anyone you don't trust and have visually changed dramatically over 20 years then I don't think you have a significant amount to worry about.

    When she's done with the court case, it could be made into the worlds slowest action film. I'd be hanging on the edge of my seat waiting until the bad guys go through all the BT books in the UK and find her only to find out that the Tiscali line has a fault and they've published the wrong address anyway.

    Anonymous because you know someone is after me too!

  3. asdf

    what do you expect from an Italian company

    Come on this from a company based in the country that elected Belsconi twice. Italy is the only major country in Western Europe you can't drive rental cars from other countries into. Great food, wine, women but any thing requiring organization or competence good luck with that.

  4. Havin_it

    Giving civil servants a run for their money

    in the data-protection FAIL stakes.

    This certainly serves to vindicate my decision to leave Pipex before this shower took over. Not that I'm ex-directory or anything, but it seems to confirm that Tiscali's drones give even less of a shit for their customers than Pipex did towards the end.

    Poor woman. I suspect she may have done some pretty questionable things herself to still be in fear of deadly reprisals after all this time, but this really is unforgiveable.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @Andrew Austin (if that is, in fact, your real name!)

    Could just as easily be a Loyalist turncoat... besides, the Provos have gone a bit soft and the other arms are more likely to take action these days, so they are.

    Where's the Red Hand icon?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we take [insert failure] very seriously"

    .. No you don't.

    Most large companies (especially Tiscali) could not care less about you the customer beyond the continued receipt of your fees.

    They will only comply with legislation, which is why all the "Voluntary codes of conduct" and the data protection act are completely pointless at actually giving people more security, they only give us something to clutch at fruitlessly after the fact. (kinda like cctv really).

    I would never have been a tiscali customer before but certainly not now!

  7. Jimmy Floyd
    Black Helicopters

    Something's not quite right here

    If this really was a matter of high-level national or personal security then why did she give Tiscali genuine details? Why trust a company with something that could get you killed any more than you would trust a man on the street?

    I suspect there's more to this than has been released.

  8. Adrian Challinor
    Paris Hilton

    Gotta love the fact ...

    ... That they publish her name and address, but don't give their own head office phone number.

    Thats class.

    Paris, because she is in so many peoples phone books

  9. pctechxp
    Black Helicopters

    If you were that concerned

    Why would you take out phone or broadband service?

    I thought these type of people liked to live 'off the grid'

    Black helicopters for obvious reasons.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Not being Italian I don't really care too much, but the commentator whop said

    "Come on this from a company based in the country that elected Belsconi twice. Italy is the only major country in Western Europe you can't drive rental cars from other countries into. Great food, wine, women but any thing requiring organization or competence good luck with that."

    has got to be short a sandwich from his picnic. I had no problem driving a hire car in Italy, I did have to argue to be allowed to take it to Hungary though.

    I do agree with the Belesconi comment thoug :-)

  11. MyHeadIsSpinning


    I like the hints that El Reg drops in the article as to which event the woman was an activist in during the 1980's. Almost inviting us to trawl through Wikipedia and have a guess.

    I, like Jimmy Floyd up there, also have no idea why this woman chose to give her genuine home address to Tiscali.

    However; all she had to do was take the £50k offered, change her name again, and move house. I gather that getting a villa in Spain or Eastern Europe is all the rage these days.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    she and contacts remain concerned her enemies could still seek revenge.

    The real question is what in the name of all that is holy did she do? I'm having trouble thinking of anything that would cause special operation troops to hold a "i'll kill her" type grudge for over 20 years.

  13. James 6

    Re: Something's not quite right here

    "If this really was a matter of high-level national or personal security then why did she give Tiscali genuine details?"

    How else would they have provided the service TO HER HOUSE? Unless there is some technology I'm not aware of that can make data find it's own way.

    Even if you have changed your identity you still wouldn't want to increase the likelihood of it being discovered by having it in the phonebook. And at the end of the day Tiscali are in breach of data protection laws, regardless of what it actually led to (or not).

  14. Anonymous Coward

    RE: There is no doubting that Tiscali cocked up but...

    "If you've changed your name, changed your address, not passed on your details to anyone you don't trust and have visually changed dramatically over 20 years then I don't think you have a significant amount to worry about."

    You assume here that the individuals that might want to do her ill are unaware of the previous details, where in fact they might well have some of it and are piecing it together. Following the breadcrumbs so to speak. You also assume that those same individuals don't have significant personal or financial incentives to discover her whereabouts. Given that neither of which you can possibly know, your risk assessment is somewhat flawed.


  15. Anonymous Coward

    @AC 12:08 GMT

    "commentator whop"? A Freudian slip, surely...

  16. Peter Kay

    @Why give genuine details

    Perhaps a mistake to comment just before I've propped up my brain with food, but :

    You have to give your name and address so you can be billed, surely? I suppose there are ways round that, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to not have to maintain dozens of names for each service you sign up for and to ask to be excluded from a directory.

  17. Big Bear


    Maybe they did elect Burlesque-coni twice, but we put NuLabour in THREE times! We have no leg to stand on with that kind of comment!

    I assume that asdf is from the UK, of course, as any Yank wouldn't get involved about a certain leader getting voted in twice...

  18. Simon B

    Tiscali - Never heard of privacy?

    Thank you for the heads up, I'll be sure NEVER to use Tiscali, and to warn others off, what a bunch of cowboys.

  19. N2

    Typical Italian attitude

    Half witted fucking useless company, cant be arsed to lift a finger to help, I shit em.

  20. Ed Blackshaw

    I smell something here...

    ... and it isn't roses. More like the product of the back end of a male bovine...

    "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.""

    Given the trouble my girlfriend recently had when moving house and leaving Tiscali, I'd be likely to think that this sort of thing was, indeed, absolutely typical of them.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    dumb fcx

    Someone phoned her asking about someone else she used to live nextdoor to. Therefore it doesn't matter about appearances etc - if strangers can find her, reprisal mobs can.

    Funny thing is though, she probably gets off on the fact she's "special" etc but those she did her stuff against years ago are probably dead, in prison or wear cardigans and play squash with Jeremy every Tuesday evening. ie they've moved on and forgotten her.

    A court case is excellent for stirring old memories though.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge


    I dunno, given the choice I'd rather have Berlusconi than Brown any day of the week.

    A premier who fucks models, hands out bribes from his own pocket and regularly makes an arse of himself in public as opposed to one who fucks everyone, hands out "expenses" from the public purse and regularly makes the entire country look an arse in public? No contest IMHO.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Sucks to be you

    Probably an IRA journalist that leaked too much info.

  24. Stuart 22 Silver badge

    No friends in high places?

    This is a queer one.

    If she has provided important information to National Security then she knows who to contact there. In turn they should have been able to sort the online aspect in minutes. All communication companies (BT especially) have people with 'special relationships' with the spooks in commanding positions. Indeed who they are answerable to is not a question to ask. They could have got the BT IT people to fix the database immediately. And maybe help Tiscali find a competent IT person!

    No faffing around with head offices, registered post and all that stuff. The only problem would be the printed stuff. Maybe moving that phonebook edition up the re-issue list?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 12:36

    You're probably right about her thinking she's "special".

    In particular, if you really want to stay hidden you don't tell a bloody phone company that you want your information kept secret: that's just drawing attention to yourself. You either give a false name, or, more likely, you give the new name that you are now using for general purposes and which nobody has any reason to link with your previous name.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For those of you that think this is trivial:

    I used to know someone in the SAS. He was married and had served in NI. Every time he and his family moved, the IRA sent a letter to him and his wife, along the lines of "we know where you are, we can kill you at any time of our choosing".

    As the story indicated, this woman had changed her identity several times - but to get a phone line, you will need to supply a name and bank account details.

  27. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Something fishy here

    I can give you my current name, address, and all phone numbers but there's no way you'd know who I was ten years ago just from any or all of that. Nor from just my given name, address or numbers find the others.

    It could be possible to find out but then I haven't had the need to 'disappear off the radar'.

    Bet she's shitting herself about the NIR, when it will be illegal not to disclose assumed identities and change of address and we'll have a single - leaky - database making it easy to trace her entire history back to year dot.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    That's what you get for using Tiscrappy. Should have used a good quality ISP.

  29. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!


    Activist? Strange description eh? I wonder who she pissed off.

  30. Ally J

    You have to love them

    I particularly like Tiscali wanting to know her background and why she wanted to remain 'hidden'. No valid reason at all for this, and total fail on recognising that their sales team made a grave error or told a fib.

    It's regrettable that the injured party will also get unwanted publicity from this, as I'd like to see Tiscali's silliness made public for all to see.

  31. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Housewife Hysteria

    Nobody is related to her and the story - including the detailed background, which is omitted for obvious reasons - is thoroughly fact-checked.

    But you keep fighting those media conspiracies, wontcha!?

    Chris Williams

  32. Seán
    IT Angle

    Housewife Hysteria

    Someone at el reg must be related to this old bag. Keeping a telephone number ex-directory isn't a security measure. If she was involved in some hush hush government secrets crap then she should have gotten it all sorted out through her government contacts. If she doesn't have any contacts then her story is bogus and housewife hysteria claims another gullible victim.

    PS if there's one thing more boring than dealing with customer service at a telco it's reading a bleeding two page article about it embellished with nonsensical cloak and dagger guff.

  33. Christoph

    "How much do you want?"

    > "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?"

    If someone did that to me I'd assume they were recording the call and were trying to get me to say something that they could use in court - ""Look, he's only doing this to try to get money out of us!"

    > The company, meanwhile, demanded to know the detailed background of her involvement in national security

    Perhaps they could explain what possible use they could have for such classified information, other than passing it on to her enemies?

  34. blackworx

    False names

    When it comes to working the "system" of getting a subscriber line you generally have to go through some sort of credit checking process. Obviously it's far from impossible to game that system, but it takes planning, is a lot of hassle, and generally requires you to either stick with one name for long enough to build up a record, and/or get your false name on the electoral roll; both of which basically mean you end up with what is to all intents and purposes a static identity - the very thing you're trying to avoid by using an assumed name in the first place. As other posters have said, any halfwit with enough of an incentive to find you could do so quite easily.

  35. Lloyd

    Hold on

    "Tiscali provided BT with the woman's name address and phone number sometime before the end of November 2007"

    Um, didn't they have to as BT provide the phone service for Tiscali?

  36. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Hold on

    "BT provide the phone service for Tiscali?"

    No. As the story states, her line was fully unbundled MPF.

    - Chris Williams

  37. Youngdog

    She should have got a broadband dongle

    and registered is at the address two doors down. Then when she heard a loud KA-BOOM and seen the charred remains of their household pet go flying past the window she would know those no-good rats had sold her out and it was time to break out the fake nose, pay a visit to the Lone Gunmen and go take some ISP Boss's scalp Arnie style.

    Now THERE'S your movie adaptation.

    T-800 icon because SHE'LL BE BACK!

  38. MnM

    bad cover

    surely, for people in her position, you'd have an identity linked to your home address for sundry services over which you can't expect to have a great amount of control - reducing the downside of any mistakes like this. Maybe it wasn't the same when BT ruled the roost and any indiscretions could be resolved but today, her approach makes no sense to me.

  39. Cliff

    On an unrelated note

    Anyone else think CISAS is pronounced "kiss-ass"?

  40. Jón Frímann Jónsson
    Black Helicopters

    Off the record people

    I guess the company is in huge problems now. Because they are never going to be trusted with off the grid people (aliases people and such). I also guess that regulators are going to go over this company with a detailed investigation soon.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    High Level Complaints Phone Number

    If anyone else is having problems with Tiscali, Pipex or Bulldog the number to call is: 0207 087 2000. They answer very quickly and are always want to know how you obtained the number. Please don't tell them.

    The numerous 0871 centres work off a very limited script which assumes that you've screwed up. If it is Tiscali who have made a mistake they cannot help. If you push them hard enough they will be forced to lie to you, as there is nothing else they can do.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Housewife hysteria or government contacts"

    The woman WAS an informant - i.e some time ago. As such, she was never a government employee and probably has no special contacts today. She is largely on her own.

    If, as she suggests, Tiscali have exposed the whereabouts of any current/former members of special forces, I would not be comfortable if I were a director of Tiscali.

    As for the comments about "people like this living off the radar" - just because someone was an informant or a member of special forces some years ago does not mean they will live the rest of their lives without telephones or Internet access.

  43. Paul 4

    Some people...

    Have been watching to many films... Living off the grid? High level contacts? The woman probably had somthing to do with Irish terrorists or organised crime. Nasty people who will get you after many years, but not the stuff of films.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Unbelievable, but credible.

    It would not be the first time a corporate cockup exposed lives, but it takes a special class of stupid to remain so ignorant after much prompting.

    For those who state that "special" means "knowing someone", a simple question. If you were trying to find this woman, who would you watch? Everyone in the country or her handler?

    What made me laugh out loud:

    "The company, meanwhile, demanded to know the detailed background of her involvement in national security."

    That is ab-so-lu-te quality. If any of you is ever in a similar situation, use the following answer:

    "OK, *I* don't have to kill you if I do. *They* will. Still interested?"


  45. Anonymous John

    <No title for security reasons>

    In her circumstances, why take the risk of switching suppliers? The chances of something going wrong were low, but still higher than they would have been had she stuck with BT.

  46. MD Rackham

    Does anyone else think it's amusing...

    ...that someone would expect confidential information to be kept secure by a company that's now "owned by Carphone Warehouse"?

    Maybe that's a perfectly respectable firm--we don't have them over here--but it sounds like it's run by a guy with 50 watches and the latest French postcards inside his overcoat.

    (Just checking for those postcards.)

  47. Roger Garner

    Another Be / ADSL+ happy customer...

    I moved into my current home just over 2 years ago. I'm still getting a monthly bill from Tiscali for the previous occupants' Tiscali service... Despite them telling Tiscali they'd moved house, having their phone number (service provided by Tiscali) transferred to their new house, its still me that gets sent the bill.

    How do they manage it?

  48. LPF
    Big Brother


    well seeing as it happened in the 1980's the chances of her contacts still even being in government are pretty much zero idiot!!

    christ there was a story of a tory councillor being outed by some Irish thugs a couple of months

    ago, the IRA have long memories.

    But then the British security forces have long memories as well, any unexplained deaths start

    happening on the mainland, and I fully expect a rash of car accidents to start happening in

    northern Ireland if you know what I mean.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC 14:25 High Level Complaints Phone Number

    A quick google for "Tiscali UK head office" comes up with that phone number and several others. Your google-fu is strong.

  50. northern monkey


    "christ there was a story of a tory councillor being outed by some Irish thugs a couple of months"

    Outed, or ousted?? I don't recall any tories being outed recently, the days of closeted 'family' Tory MPs frequenting popular cruising spots 'unaware of its usage' seems to have past. Well, at least we'll have one thing to look forward to if they make it in at the next election.

    < I simply went into the bushes looking for my coat, Sergeant.

  51. Dave Bell

    First, blame the salesman

    If she wanted an ex-directory number, and lots of people do for quite ordinary reasons, why didn't the Tiscali salesman sell her a service which couldn't provide it?

    (Saying they can't sounds like another dose of bullshit: they have a database for their internal accounting use, and it sounds extremely bogus that only some types of line can be marked as ex-directory)

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Put that down 007

    It's a super secret gizmo for sending and receiving messages round the world instantly.

    Due to budget restrictions, M has asked me to outsource the service to a trusted telecoms partner of the highest integrity and reliability.

    Tiscali, 007. You won't find their equal outside of the NSA.

    Tiscali, 007, a name trusted throughout MI5, and 6.

    Don't touch that mouse 007!

    Sorry Q. It's printing my personal details all over its website. Should it be doing that Q?

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah good old Tiscali...

    On the plus side... Given their complete incompetence at the basics such as billing and ex-directory, everyone should be pretty safe to share all their MP3s without any danger of them ever managing to correctly tie an IP to a user when the music industry send them emails.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @MD Rackham

    Carphone Warehouse have been lapping up all the shit for ages. They own the UK portion (at least) of AOL's broadband "service."

    P.S. Have you heard of the company called Phones 4 U? (That's how it's spelled.)

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Lloyd

    "Tiscali provided BT with the woman's name address and phone number sometime before the end of November 2007"

    Um, didn't they have to as BT provide the phone service for Tiscali?


    No, there's a separate unit in BT that's responsible for collating directory information and then selling it on to directory service providers - totally separate to anything to do with physical line provision. Tiscali must have provided her details to this unit in a specific file of information to be included in directories.

  56. pctechxp

    @MD Rackham is the man that started and runs Carphone Warehouse.

    They and Tiscali have a great synergy as they both provide crap customer service.

  57. Dean Burrows
    Thumb Up

    Quite simply...

    Tiscali cocked up, not because of the women's reasons for her court battle...

    But simply this...

    The customer requested at time of purchase a specific addition to the the contract, that of being in all ways, shape and form, ex-directory, meaning her details would remain unpublished in any publicly accessible forum and that her details would not be passed on without the explicit permission from the client sought by the provider.

    Tiscali failed in this the moment her details were handed over and are liable for not only breach of the Data Protection Act, but also breach of signed contract agreements, which were signed by the client who understood this ex-directory issue to an additional service that a negligible payment would need to be recieved by the provider.

    At the very minimum, I would expect the sales person who sold her her connection and promised something Tiscali say he could not, to receive new training as to Tiscali services, he blatantly does not remember what it is he is selling, for Tiscali to pay heavy compensation to the women regarding this matter, as to my knowledge, the breach of the Data Protection act is something fairly serious and should be stamped on fairly quickly (unless you are BT re: Phorm, in which case, go right ahead, you don't care anyway) and a thorough investigation into Tiscali's records by industry appointed regulators and experts.

    There was a time when the companies lived to serve their customers.

    I will sign up to the first ISP that offers me this... meanwhile I will stick with Virgin's L package of a 10Mb...sorry, 5Mb connection....

    All power to her for doing and pushing for what noone else did to this point... We need people like her in government, irregardless of past... talent and the metaphysical sac of a huge bull should be put to good use.. We need it

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tiscali have alot to answer for here

    Tiscali have obviously screwed up bigtime.I used to work for the BT call centre in Glasgow(Dial House-Bothwell St for Residential services)We used to deal with customers wanting to start up phone service which covered both civilians and MOD sites,Army barracks,etc.We were told to always use NQR which meant No Quoted Record,which was supposed to be used for MOD sites,House alarm lines,Prison officers,Police officers,victims of crime,etc as it was supposed to be a better option for people who dont want to be even listed as Ex directory.(This was before the directory services were opened up and 192 was changed to 118500)

    From memory the directory options were

    PHONE BOOK-your details are in everything.

    DQR-Directory enquiries only(but not in the phonebook)

    XDCO-Ex Directory Calls offered(so if you called up directory enquiries they would say its ex directory and should give out any information but would still offer to transfer you to the person provided they accepted the call)

    XD-standard Ex directory which most people go with

    NQR-No Quoted record-we were told this to use this for MOD sites,Army barracks,doctors,nurses,prison officers,police officers,victims of crime,etc as it was considered a better option than Ex-directory as you weren't even listed as ex directory as there would be no record at all.

  59. G-HAM 2000


    Those scoffing at the idea that this woman would still be on the radar of whatever paramilitary/criminal set that has it in for her, are hopelessly naive. These sorts of people have very long memories, and often continually keep tabs or try to locate informants for decades - long after the members present at the time are dead or in prison.

  60. yahoo

    exposed activist

    hi. oh my god i fear for this women. if she were to die it could be national news.she should be fully compensated for sure but what about everyone else. mel somerset

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