Sunday, December 02, 2007

Your life details in their hands

It seems that the police have given up hope of recovering the Tax Credit disks in their unexamined state, and are now searching rubbish dumps.

Now there is confirmation of a careless attitude to data security in the Department of Work and Pensions. The revelation that a contractor took personal copies of sensitive information, over a year ago, might not have been made if journalists had not been following up the story of the Tax Credit disks.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Danny Alexander MP has written to Peter Hain calling on him to act to restore confidence in his department.

Danny Alexander said:

“This latest shocking revelation suggests that the culture of carelessness with personal data exists across the whole Government.

“There is a real concern that if some of the most vulnerable people lose confidence in the Government’s ability to look after their personal data, they will not claim money to which they are entitled.

“It is very surprising that Peter Hain has not spoken publicly about his department data practices since the HMRC scandal broke. He needs to speak up now or risk further undermining public confidence in the benefits system.”

Later: The government is offering a £20,000 reward to anyone who finds the missing HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) discs containing 25 million child benefit records, after the initial police search failed to find them.

The search for the missing CDs has been led by a core team of 47 detectives and computer experts from the Metropolitan Police's Specialist and Economic Crime Command.

Now that the main search has finished without finding the CDs, the Met has appealed to all staff at HMRC, the National Audit Office and the Treasury to check at work and "other locations" for the discs. HMRC courier TNT will also ask its staff to help with the search for the CDs.

In addition to the police appeal, HMRC is now offering a reward of "up to £20,000" for information leading to the safe return of the CDs - despite the fact acting Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable last week claimed the data on the discs could be worth up to £1.5bn to criminals on the black market.

[From Andy McCue, writing for]
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