Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Government Data Shambles, again

Yet more data has been lost by the HMRC to add to that lost by other government departments. With the number of incidents approaching double figures, it is clear that there is a systemic failure of data and records security and management throughout large parts of the public sector. This doesn't just come from a failure of systems, though God knows these seem pretty shambolic, but from a failure of culture. Take the 25 million child benefits claimants on the two CDs that were lost for example. In cash terms this data could not have been more valuable if the two CDs had been made out of 24-carat gold. If they had been made of gold then no-one whould have shoved them into the internal mail, but no-one batted an eyelid about doing that to the data. Was it because no one understood how important the data was? Was it because it is almost impossible to get fired in the Civil Service no matter how poorly you perform? Professionally, I am an expert in this particular field and in my organision, a FTSE 100 company, errors of this kind would get you escorted off the premises by security. Unsurprisingly, this tends to concentrate minds. Now there is talk of adding criminal sanctions to the Data Protection Act. Well, that might help but it isn't actually necessary if management in government agencies were doing their jobs, and miscreants know that screwups of this kind lead directly to a P45.

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