Independent News and Media has written to individuals who may have had their data searched in an alleged data breach. 

In the letter, which has been seen by RTÉ News, INM said information was provided "to a third party service provider under the instruction of the then Chairman of INM".

Last week, INM's former chairman Leslie Buckley said he would be "robustly defending" similar allegations which have been reportedly made by the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan in a High Court affidavit.

A spokesman for Mr Buckley said he would not be commenting on the letter.

In its letter, INM said that before it had received court papers from the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the company had understood "from people directly involved" that the data was searched for the purpose of seeking details of a long term professional services contract. 

However, it said the materials provided by the Director of Corporate Enforcement last month suggests that the data may have been searched "more extensively for a different purpose". 

It said that the information from the Director of Corporate Enforcement includes a list of names of additional users or persons of interest. 

The company said it did not know if any searches were undertaken or for what purpose, "but based on the limited information currently available to INM it seems possible that they were". 

The company said it did not know "to whom any search results may have been provided". 

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In the letter, INM also confirmed to the individual that "information relating to you may have been put at risk of unauthorised disclosure". 

It said the data may have consisted of references in emails to the individual and digital files stored on INM servers and related back-up tapes as of October 2014.

The company said it was taking steps to establish whether searches were undertaken on INM's data and if so for what purpose.

The company said it would be cooperating with the Data Protection Commissioner's investigation.

It also said it will alert the person to whom it sent the letter if their data was subject to unauthorised disclosures.