Data Loss

Whose life is it anyway?

Convention on Modern Liberty Research Team paper 2
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Ministers assure us that our personal information is safe in government databases. But how are we to know that information held on us is correct? And what means do the public have to change incorrect information?

It is estimated that between one and five per cent of information held on public databases is incorrect, which translates into millions of details affecting millions of people. Yet FoI requests from the data protection company Garlik show most government departments have no written policy to correct such errors.

The far more worrying aspect is the sheer amount of information that is either lost or made public by accident. Here are some of the more alarming cases from the last six months.

Four and half million job seekers’ personal details were stolen from recruitment website
27 January 2009

2,000 public servants’ bank details have been lost by the British Council
25 January 2009

5,000 patients’ medical details were lost by a South Wales trust
24 January 2009

6,360 prisoners’ details from HMP Preston were lost on a memory stick
January 2009

5,000 nursery-aged children’s details were lost by Leeds City Council.
8 December 2008

80 Children’s details have been lost on a misplaced memory stick owned by a Leicester City Council-run nursery.
November 2008.

7,851 children, parents and carers’ details lost on a laptop stolen from Surrey County Council.
November 2008.

10,000 patients’ details have been exposed by losses and thefts of IT equipment in the NHS since 2006.
November 2008.

100,000 members of the Armed Forces’ personal details were lost by the MoD as well as a further 600,000 potential applicants’ details.
10th October 2008

18,000 NHS staff’s personal details were lost in the post on four CDs.
15th September 2008

70 soldiers’ training details were lost.
9th September 2008

Thousands of RAF personnel had their records lost when 3 portable hard drives were stolen from RAF Innsworth.
September 2008.

5,000 prison officers’ had their personal details exposed on a hard drive lost by a Ministry of Justice contractor.
September 2009.

608 employees of failed companies’ personal details were stolen from an office at the Insolvency Service in Manchester.
27 August 2008

Thousands of current and ex-prisoners’ sensitive details were on an unencrypted memory stick lost by a Home Office contractor.
August 2008.

400 ISA holders’ details were lost when a laptop was stolen from the car of an HMRC official. In Parliamentary answers ministers revealed that 41 laptops were stolen from HMRC over the past 12 months.
August 2008.

Other Statistics

The government has lost 53 computers during one year, along with 36 Blackberries, 30 mobile phones and four memory sticks.
November 2008.

65 memory sticks, 120 laptops and 74 hard drives were lost or stolen from the MoD between January and November.
November 2008.

150 farmers mistakenly received emails from Northumbria Police containing the details of suspected criminals.
November 2008

A server, purchased for 99p on eBay, was found to connect automatically to Kirklees Council’s internal network.
September 2008.

14 laptops and 21 mobile phones were lost or stolen from the Department of Health in 2007-8.
November 2008.

41 laptops were stolen from HMRC between August 2007-2008.

176 reported data breaches in the public sector between October 2007 and October 2008.