The Department for Work and Pensions has suspended all “data exchanges” with local authorities because discs containing details of council tax and housing benefit claimants have been mislaid.
The loss of information, including national insurance numbers, names, addresses and birth dates, was confirmed in a confidential memo last week from the Local Government Association to councils.
At least 45,000 names and personal details are known to have gone missing from one council, with the DWP admitting last night that more authorities have lost discs.
Just what on earth has been going on? No doubt we’ll be told that the government has ‘learned lessons’ and it really won’t happen to Contactpoint/eCAF/NIR/NHS care records (insert any other national database name here). But ask yourself: if an electrician screwed up your re-wiring so badly that everyone got shocks, would you honestly let said electrician through your front door again?
What it indicates is a culture of corner-cutting and sloppiness that has rendered data protection meaningless. It also demonstrates perfectly that the greatest threat to data security comes from insiders. Not even malicious insiders, but ordinary people being careless.
No doubt if Contactpoint et al get off the ground, everyone will be Very Careful for a while, but ten years down the road, when it’s just another database and the public has stopped looking too closely, what’s the betting that the scenes of the last couple of weeks will be replayed over and over again?