Britain's Department for Work and Pensions has admitted to losing even more personal details of British residents in the form of mislaid CDs containing tens of thousands of records. This comes in the wake of last month's revelation that the the Treasury had routinely posted (and mislaid) CDs containing the personal information of 25,000,000 British households that it had sent to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs through the post.
The DWP has personal records from each local council sent in each month by TNT courier, the same courier that lost the CDs sent by the Treasury.
The problem here isn't just sending CDs full of personal info around. Collecting mountains of personal information on law-abiding citizens is inherently dangerous — just because it's easy to do, it doesn't follow that governments should do it. A system containing enormous amounts of high-value, high-risk information just begs to leak. Designing a government that requires this kind of data-retention and transfer is like designing a self-destruct button into a movie spaceship — something so dangerous that the designer should really be forced to answer the question: "Is this really worth the risk of it going wrong?"
In the first week of August, Kirklees Council, in West Yorks, sent two discs containing the details of 45,000 residents to the DWP via the delivery firm TNT, which was also involved in transporting the child benefit records.
On September 2, the DWP contacted officials at Kirklees to say the information had not arrived but was reassured when the council produced a TNT receipt.
On November 23, two days after the news that child benefit records had been lost was confirmed in the Commons, the council was told the discs were still missing. The DWP abruptly suspended data record exchanges.
A source at Kirklees Council, said: "The frightening thing is that when it happens, other councils are simply told, 'don't worry, just send us another disc'."