Their names were supposed to be kept off a published list of Newfoundland and Labrador public servants who earned $100,000 or more in 2016, and now the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner is launching a formal investigation into why police officers didn't get the protection they were promised.

Donovan Molloy announced Thursday that his office is acting on its own, without a complaint.

The investigation will look into why employees who were granted an exemption from the so-called Sunshine List disclosure had their privacy breached, and why information not authorized for disclosure was published.

Donovan Molloy

The information and privacy commissioner says the release of hundreds of employee IDs is an apparent privacy breach. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The provincial government had agreed to a request from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association to leave the names of police officers off the salary list, published June 30.

The association had argued that publishing names could put officers in danger.

However, a spreadsheet for one government division had tabs containing an unredacted list of RNC officers — including names, salary details, badge numbers and employee IDs.

The Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Andrew Parsons, said at the time that he was "extremely disappointed and concerned."

Molloy told CBC News last week that the release of information would have to be deliberate for someone to be charged, and it appeared to have been accidental.

He said it is rare for a privacy breach to involve hundreds of people.