Government loses millions of citizen’s personal records

In recent years we’ve seen a continual line of data screw-ups from government departments, from lost records to leaving laptops with Defence Ministry data on them in cars to be stolen to the Department of Health putting all the personal information of junior doctors on a new national system up online with not even a basic level of password protection so anyone, anywhere could access confidential data. But today Alistair Darling (my local MP, I’m afraid to say, the Edinburgh politician who once famously referred to the Scottish Parliament as ‘the Scottish Assembly’ – I keep voting against the bugger but he never takes the hint) revealed a truly massive cock-up: H.M. Revenues & Customs have managed to lose discs containing confidential data on some 25 million individuals.

That’s almost half the bloody population of the UK – basically these incompetent morons put all this data (which includes National Insurance numbers, bank details, date of birth, children, partner… A fraudster’s dream ticket) onto a couple of CDs (what century are they living in?) and had them couried to another department (which is against best practise according to the data watchdog), except they went missing and now they have no idea where they went (which is presumably why the data watchdog says they’re not meant to do it this way). And it turns out these irresponsible shagwits did this back on the 18th of October according to the BBC; it wasn’t reported to the senior managers until 8th of November, the Chancellor (Alistair Darling) on the 10th then he deigned to tell the House of Commons and the citizens of the country today ten days after that. He blames the banks for this delay in telling people saying they demanded time to prepare for possible identity thefts or bank frauds if this information is found and mis-used, but I fail to see why this meant he waited ten more days to tell the House – sounds like they were trying to think on how to limit the damage, or perhaps just pray they would find the missing discs and keep quiet on the whole thing.

This is the same government who urges us all to be aware of identity theft, the same government who wants local doctors to agree to a national system where patient’s medical records are put onto a national database despite the fact most doctor’s have clearly said no, they believe the system would be too open, the wrong people could access patient’s details and it would destroy patient-doctor confidentiality (you have to admit, given the constant string of incompetence in all matters to do with data security and information technology in the government they have a good point). This is the same bunch of power-hungry politicos who have been trying to ram a biometric ID card system down the throat of a reluctant British electorate for years (for our security, presumably so if you are shot in the face by police mistaking you for a terrorist they can tell your family who you are from your ID card, assuming the details on it are actually right, which they probably won’t be). Yeah, sure, here’s all my data in one handy, easy to alter or steal file that tons of civil servants can access anytime…

As Jon Snow asked a government minister wriggling in his seat on Channel 4 News tonight, how can this government continue to push for a national biometric ID system (and a national DNA database) when they clearly cannot be trusted to safeguard personal information on citizens? Liberal Democrat Vince Cable touched on the same point: “After this disaster how can the public possibly have confidence in the vast centralised databases needed for the compulsory ID card scheme?” I’m sure they will still try to force it through, of course. Meantime the numpties at HMRC don’t even have anything on their homepage to inform the millions of citizens they’ve just left vulnerable, which is pretty pathetic considering it is the very, very least they should have done instead of leaving worried people to have to glean information (belatedly) released to the press after Darling decided he couldn’t stall any longer.