Boris Johnson, British prime minister who’s been passing out his deets like a sloppy rando at last call, has left his personal cell phone number online for the past 15 years. The British gossip site Popbitch used a sophisticated hacking tool called Google and discovered his direct cell line at the bottom of a 2006 press release. They did not tell us the precise location, but we can confirm it’s out there and very easy to track down.
This was prompted by numerous complaints that Johnson has long refused to change the number. Last week, sources told The Telegraph that insiders “joked that the Prime Minister was too liberal in handing out his phone number to people he meets, leading to an ever-burgeoning list of people able to contact him.” Imagine this sounds something like: phone me, wink wink, and then oh shit, as the house keys to Downing Street fall into the River Thames.
Some worried about the lobbyists’ direct access after the BBC obtained leaked text messages in which Johnson personally promised industrial mogul and donor James Dyson that he would lower Dyson’s employees’ tax rates.
One could have found said number in a press release, which remains online, though now without the prime minister’s number. A search on the Wayback machine reveals that it has been lightly edited at some point within the last 16 hours.
Why keep a press release from 2006 live? Perhaps they’re admirably preserving public records or idiotically hoping that they can prove people wrong if they share the link without realizing that it’s been archived. Gizmodo has reached out to the prime minister’s office about this and Johnson’s general stance on publicizing his number and will update the post if we hear back.
Hours ago, Politico reported that they were able to reach the number, which played a recorded message in a woman’s voice: “This person’s phone is switched off. Please try later or send a text.” As of 9:30 a.m. ET, a call now ends in a dead tone. We can’t confirm that he hasn’t changed the number, but the London paper The Times reported that he’s held onto it for “more than a decade.”
After Popbitch dropped the clue, former UK National Security Advisor Peter Ricketts told BBC Radio 4 that there’s reason to worry that state or individual actors could access his personal communications with world leaders, although others told Politico that states would have likely found the number anyway.
In the coming weeks, expect Boris Johnson to tell us about his grandmother refusing to change her phone number so she could call space or something.