Nov 22 2012 By Michael Russell
A COUNCILLOR has been caught creating a false identity to attack political opponents and the council online.
Conservative Colm Costello was rumbled after Ealing Council's Labour leader Julian Bell wrote to Neighbour Net, the company which runs the EalingToday website.
Mr Bell received the IP address (the unique number identifying devices connecting to the internet) of both Mr Costello and the fictional Mark Stevens and discovered they were the same.
In response opposition leader David Millican has accused Mr Bell of breaking the Data Protection Act by releasing the information. Mr Bell said Hobbayne ward councillor Mr Costello should resign for his underhanded tactics.
He said: “It didn't take a writing style analyst to work out they were the same person, we were absolutely certain but needed proof. It had been going on for two to three months, he was quite extensive in his postings both as Colm Costello and Mark Stevens.
“I’m shocked he had the gall to do it. We’re in a position of trust as councillors. I think it marks a new low in Ealing politics. He should resign.”
Mr Millican said the matter has been dealt with and Mr Costello stopped posting as Mark Stevens in July. He said Mr Bell is at fault for releasing the IP address and names together and is considering taking action.
He added: “I’m surprised Councillor Bell has done this. I’ve taken advice from the council's data protection officers and it appears he’s broken the rules. I have written to him and am waiting to see how he responds before I decide whether to pursue the matter further.”
Rejecting the idea Mr Costello should resign, he said: “Colm Costello is a very diligent and conscientious councillor who works hard for the people of his ward.”
Mr Bell described accusing him of breaking the Data Protection Act as ‘A fig leaf to try to hide what is a far more serious breach of conduct’.
If the Information Commissioner’s Office got involved, both Mr Bell and Neighbour Net could face a fine of upto £1,000, an order not to breach the Data Protection Act again or face prosecution.
But the independent watchdog would have to agree an IP address and name is classed as personal information and reject a number of defences, such as the sharing of information being in the public interest or to prevent crime.
Mr Costello declined to comment.