Vodafone sent 1,000 News UK workers' data to police
Vodafone sent phone data of more than 1,000 News UK staff to police who had asked for details of just one journalist, it has emerged.
The information was requested under Operation Elveden, Scotland Yard's inquiry into alleged payments to public officials in return for information.
Vodafone blamed human error; the Met said the excess data was sent back.
News UK, formerly known as News International, is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
Information was sought about the mobile phone data of one journalist working for the firm during 2005-07, using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
But Vodafone sent more than 1,000 numbers to the police in March and the force informed Vodafone and the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office about the error on 27 June.
A Vodafone spokesman said the company urged Scotland Yard to delete the data, and the Met said it had agreed to use the material only "for a policing purpose, when in the interests of justice to do so".
Vodafone said detectives returned the data in mid-October.
A spokesman for the mobile phone operator said: "Unfortunately, there was a human error during the processing of this information - which was drawn manually from a legacy system - as a consequence of which the Met Police were supplied with a corrupted dataset containing a significantly higher volume of metadata than had been the focus of the warrant received by Vodafone.
"The metadata in question relates to call logs and other information, such as pricing data, not the content or location of any communications."
The spokesman added that Vodafone wrote to the police to express its "grave concern that the police continued to retain the data released to them in error and made it clear to them that any assumption that meaningful conclusions could be drawn from any aspect of the corrupted dataset was highly questionable".
A police spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recognised the sensitivity of the excess data provided and ensured it was retained securely, until it was returned to Vodafone.
"The Metropolitan Police consulted with the Interception of Communications Commissioner's Office and the Information Commissioner on how this error should best be managed.
"The MPS agreed that it would only use the material for a policing purpose, when in the interests of justice to do so, and where people were already charged and facing criminal proceedings."