all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others
THE government faced a new data row this weekend after it emerged that HM Revenue and Customs has set up a secret “two tier” security system for online tax records giving extra protection to a small group of MPs, royals and other VIPs.
Although the HMRC denied that the security of its online computer system was in doubt, a spokesman admitted that there were “bad apples” in the organisation who could present a risk that data would be compromised.
Tax records contain home addresses, bank account details, national insurance numbers and details of savings and investments, all valuable to fraudsters.
And of course they are valuable to journalists too, as Nick Davies explains in Flat Earth News. Fundamentally there is a market for that information and people willing to participate in the market as suppliers.
Asked if the extra security measures meant that the department didn’t trust its own employees to deal with sensitive data, [the spokesman] said: “The system is secure. We do trust our own people but as with all things there are bad apples.”
She’s in a difficult position because of course she must say that her colleagues are trustworthy and that the system is secure. But clearly it is not 100% secure, in terms of the technology and the people who have access to it.
Is it not in the public interest, particularly the taxpayer’s interest in this instance, to be aware of how (in)secure it is? Joe Bloggs might think, as it happens there is someone after him and he’d like to be on the more secure ‘tier’.
SpyBlog’s concern about this comes through in a great (perhaps unwitting) gag:
It should be made clear to terrorists, that Members of Parliament, even members of the Government, who are supposedly serving the Public, not just themselves, are not a worthwhile target, since we, as a society will simply replace them democratically, whilst mourning any individual casualties.
Although I’m not sure about the mourning – perhaps that bit was sarcasm.
My headline is of course a quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which you should read if you haven’t already done so.