UK Liberty

What a shower

Posted in database state by ukliberty on November 22, 2007

The Times

The latest disclosure will increase the pressure on Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, who faced calls yesterday for his resignation over the loss of details of 25 million Britons from the Washington office of HMRC.

The allegations of newly missing files were made by members of staff at the tax centre, some of whom appeared to be unaware of the rules governing data protection. They told officers that the files were sent to offices in Central London and have not been accounted for. The files do not, unlike the two CDs lost in transit to the National Audit Office in London, include bank account details. However, the information could be used by fraudsters to apply for credit.

As SpyBlog points out, the risks aren’t just financial:

Alistair Darling only mentioned the financial risks of this massive potential data breach, but he ignored the confidential name and address information which could be life threatening to, say, battered wives and their children, victims of stalkers, people in witness protection schemes, families of Judges, police officers, prison officers, armed forces, intelligence agencies etc.

See my page on data abuse for real-life examples, and this page for some hypotheticals.

Back to the Times:

Further questions about the standards of data protection at HMRC were raised yesterday by a solicitor who works routinely with the prosecution arm of the HMRC. Shawn Williams, of Rose, Williams & Partners, a legal firm in Wolverhampton that deals with tax fraud cases, said that his firm frequently received discs that contained personal data from the HMRC with the password included. “Sometimes there is no security at all, sometimes there are instructions telling you how to access the data, sometimes the password is just written on a compliments slip and included with the disc,” he told The Times.

These are the people we are to entrust with every detail of our lives in just a few databases (National Register, the Spine, eCAF).  But hey, nothing to hide, nothing to fear – right?

James Hammerton has listed some other cases of shoddy data security.


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