The police are investigating claims that Arron Banks – a former UKIP donor and ally of Nigel Farage – had his Twitter account hacked.
Officers are “investigating whether any offences have been committed” after a series of private Twitter messages allegedly belonging to the Brexiteer were published online.
His account appeared to be compromised shortly before links were posted to downloadable files apparently containing Banks’ personal data and messages.
Banks’ unverified Twitter account @Arron_banks has since been suspended after lawyers of the Leave.EU co-founder warned the posts could break the Computer Misuse Act.
A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: “We are investigating whether any offences have been committed under the Computer Misuse Act after we received a report that a Twitter account was compromised.”
A statement on the Twitter account of Banks’ Leave.EU campaign said: “I became aware last night that my Twitter account had been hacked and that persons involved have posted personal data obtained illegally via Twitter.
“The matter has been reported to the police.
“Twitter were notified 12 hours ago, and despite repeated requests they have taken no action to deactivate the account or remove the illegal data downloads.
“Despite the obvious lack of security at Twitter relating to personal data, they have deliberately chosen to leave personal data in the public domain.”
The Mirror report that Banks is giving no comment on the leaked material itself, but that the hack seems to have taken place from somewhere in Bristol.
Some Twitter users have been sharing photographs they claim are private messages sent to and from Banks’ account, but these cannot be verified nor republished for legal reasons.
Ray Walsh of privacy website ProPrivacy warned sharing the contents of the alleged private messages could be a criminal offence unless there is deemed to be a public interest.
He told The Mirror: “Revelations coming out of the Arron Banks data breach are already causing a massive stir on Twitter due to the shocking revelations they contain of Banks’ alleged personal messages.
“However, the hacked data, which was illegally taken from Banks’ private Twitter communications, will remain illegal to publish, comment on, and disseminate, unless it is decided that the contents are in the public interest.
“If the contents of the hacks contain information that could be deemed to be in the public interest, then it seems likely that media outlets will seek legal advice and decide to publish in the coming days.
“Members of the general public who download the hacked files are reminded that disseminating and commenting on these materials could be deemed as a prosecutable offence.
“Citizens need to understand that anything they publish on social media from the data breach could potentially lead to legal action under the Data Protection Act.”