What’s the matter, Darling?

November 20, 2007 at 10:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

** Darling says 25 million records lost **
Confidential details of 25 million child benefit recipients have been lost by the HM Revenue and Customs.

Ahem. This does not inspire confidence. My first thought was

“I’m glad fingerprints were not included.”


No, these are not musical records, as in “those large old black plastic CDs that go round and round on the turntable cracking and fizzing”, kids. This is personal information: the *stuff that you should not give to anybody* has been lost in transit.



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  1. Thanks for your comments by email. I just posted a version of this over at Stoat, but it could do with airing here too.

    These are my thoughts:

    Children’s privacy is the bigger concern that is hardly touched on by today’s media coverage. Adults are protected to some extent by government guarantees against financial fraud. In general, government advice today centres on reassuring adults about risks to their money. I have heard nothing yet – only concerns being voiced – about protecting all the minors whose personal details could end up “out there” if information from these disks were to fall into the wrong hands.

    So much for a Data Protection Act, IT Directors and Data Protection Officers. Heads should roll along with those of the management line above the junior member of staff who was allowed access to the entire database, with “copy to disk capability”. Then there’s the internal mail non-delivery by TNT. So many layers and aspects lacking, PricewaterhouseCooper will have their work cut out.

    Only last week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was found in breach of the DPA. The Information Commissioner’s Office issued a press release (available on ICO homepage). Looks like those ICO folk will be kept busy for the foreseeable future by incomprehensible degrees of incompetence.

    Here, FYI, are the basic guidelines of the DPA:

    The Data Protection Act gives individuals the right to know what information is held about them. It provides a framework to ensure that personal information is handled properly.
    The Act works in two ways. Firstly, it states that anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles, which make sure that personal information is:
    * Fairly and lawfully processed
    * Processed for limited purposes
    * Adequate, relevant and not excessive
    * Accurate and up to date
    * Not kept for longer than is necessary
    * Processed in line with your rights
    * Secure
    * Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
    The second area covered by the Act provides individuals with important rights, including the right to find out what personal information is held on computer and most paper records.
    Should an individual or organisation feel they’re being denied access to personal information they’re entitled to, or feel their information has not been handled according to the eight principles, they can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office for help. Complaints are usually dealt with informally, but if this isn’t possible, enforcement action can be taken.

  2. I agree with you inel. My first concerns were about the identity issue rather than the financial fraud implications and I was surprised that the media seem to have prioritised the financial aspects in their reporting of this. I guess it speaks volumes in this age of materialism.

  3. Hello earthpal,
    Nice to hear from you!
    My aim is to raise awareness that children could be put at risk (even many years in the future) if the lost information finds its way into the wrong hands. More than that, now is a good time to remind children, or help children learn, to protect their own personal information.
    No surprises about the financial focus, really. The reporting is done through the channels that are used to handling financial and political news—it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who announced and HM Revenue and Customs and the National Audit Office that are involved in this news, and the main audience is adults who are more worried about losing money (meanwhile being generally clueless about how much information their kids provide when asked online).
    It is much easier to check a bank account for unusual activity than it is to find out how many times your teenager has given out his full name, age and address on a webform or in a social networking environment, for example.
    Media coverage, imho, is not so much a reflection of our materialistic society per se, but more a reflection of priorities for government: Northern Rock being a prime current example of the need to protect the financial markets from the fallout of a potential business collapse.
    This is a wake-up call for parents. Going beyond this story, I have already told my kids that if someone offers them the chance to have their fingerprints taken at school:

    “Just say NO!”

  4. Well that’s excellent info and advice inel.

    I have never approached my children about fingerprinting but I’ll be sure to now.

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