A Virgin Atlantic employee has been accused of leaking information about celebrity clients to paparazzi company Big Pictures, the Guardian reported.
As the Guardian explained, the employee resigned “after the Guardian raised the claims” and is accused of giving “detailed flight information of at least eight celebrities” including Sienna Miller, who successfully sued the News of the World for phone hacking. The employee “denies” turning the information over to the agency though.
In a follow up report, the Guardian noted that the leaked flight information may extend to “almost 70 celebrities.” See here a list of the celebrities who reportedly were named in the e-mails. The people include Charlize Theron, Kate Winsley, Madonna and her “kids,” Serena Williams and Princess Beatrice.
Virgin Atlantic issued a statement about the news, according to the Guardian, and announced “an immediate investigation.” Virgin Atlantic added:
“The security of customer information is our highest priority and 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 on this matter but of course we would deeply regret any concern that these allegations may cause the individuals involved.”
The Guardian noted that it “has chosen not to name” the employee in question, but did identify the employee as a woman. The Brisbane Times identified the employee as a “junior member of the team,” according to Virgin Atlantic.
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The Guardian noted that Big Pictures “paid £53,000 in damages to Miller in November 2008 over harassment and invasion of privacy. Big Pictures also agreed not to photograph the actor in public.”
The Guardian noted that Big Pictures also “launched internal investigations” following the accusations.
According to the Guardian, it fact checked some of the information by confirming flight details with available flight information and specific travel plans with information reported about the celebrities. For example, “Where known, several of the celebrities were at the travel destinations described in the emails and some were photographed at the given airports.” The Guardian noted that it saw “a string of informal emails sent last year” for its story.
We have written to the Guardian asking what led to its decision not to name the accused employee and will update with any response.
UPDATE: 4/17/2012: 12:12: PM EST: The Guardian provided us with the following statement:
A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: “After careful consideration we took the editorial decision not to name the employee in question given that the allegations were still under investigation when we ran the story.”