Database debacles

I doubt if anyone has missed the news that EDS has lost a portable hard drive containing:

the names, addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth and driving licence details of those serving in the army, navy and RAF. It also includes next-of-kin details, as well as information on 600,000 potential services applicants

As you might imagine, while attention has focussed on serving forces personnel, it’s the 600,000 potential recruits that particularly worry us. Presumably a fair number of those are still in their teens and won’t discover for a while yet whether this latest data debacle has made them sitting ducks for identity fraud.

For several years now, the US media has been reporting the increasing use by fraudsters of children’s identities. The Federal Trade Commission points out that they are ‘perfect targets’ because they have clean credit histories, and are unlikely to know what has happened until they open a bank account or apply for credit.

MPs have apparently demanded ‘a “cultural change” in public sector data handling’. Good luck with that – the rot goes deep. Only last week, a company called Databarracks published the results of a survey of schools that showed:

92% of education institutions say they back up their data, however, analysing this further, the survey shows that while 60% take the data offsite, 55% of them have this function performed by a member of staff who takes the data home.

No doubt Databarracks has its own agenda, but its findings do echo an earlier study that found almost half of schools taking unencrypted pupil data off school premises.

You only need to read UK Liberty’s pages on data loss to see the scale of sloppy public sector data-handling practices.

It would be nice to think that things would have improved by the time the national Contactpoint and eCAF databases make their entry on to the scene, but it’s not likely. Just substitute ‘Contactpoint’ or ‘eCAF’ for any of the systems mentioned on UK Liberty, and you’re looking into the future.

Incidentally, on the subject of Contactpoint, you may have missed a letter in the Telegraph from the CE of Barnardo’s objecting to conservative plans to scrap the system. He says:

I would ask Mr Gove to think long and hard about whether or not Barnardo’s, which works with more than 100,000 of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children in Britain, would support ContactPoint if we thought it would, as Mr Gove suggests, increase the risk of children being abused.

What a relief. If Barnardo’s says it’s OK, that must be right. We can go back to sleep.


One Response to Database debacles

  1. […] (Action on Rights for Children) blog is rightly up in arms at the latest in a series of Database debacles, this time by the Ministry of Defence’s main IT contractor, entailing the loss of a portable […]

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