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Darling's Data giveaway - what the readers say

Civil servants divulge all

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UK Identity Crisis More than 200 Register readers have commented on our stories on Alistair Darling's great data giveway. Many pointed out that this loss does little to increase confidence in government's ability to care for our personal information - even without creating a national ID database.

One Reg reader said:

"It is perfectly safe to entrust your confidential data to the government." How many times do you hear it said? Your DNA is safe. Your Oyster card data is safe. Your DVLA info safe.

How DUMB are we to believe them? This is proof that we shouldn't trust them.


Several readers had snippets of insider information to share. One civil servant said:

As a "overpaid" and "over-pensioned" civil servant myself, I can't say that this case comes as any great surprise.

Anyway, as I'm a "junior official" too, here's my best guess at the "facts":

First off, all established Civil Servants are bound by the Official Secrets Act 1989.

By the sound of it, the "junior official" in this case is most likely an Admin Assistant or an Admin Officer earning no more than £18,716 max (London Weighting not applicable in this case). Hardly a fortune (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/jobs/salaries.htm)

Same Junior official would have been told to send CDs to NAO by his manager - following orders. It happens a lot when you have a grade hierarchy in any organisation but why everyone is whining about this poor sod, I don't know - If NAO needs access to the complete Child Benefit database to undertake an audit then someone at HMRC needs to have access to the complete database - why shouldn't it be a "junior official" with special access, provided to him by his manager and authorised at a higher level? Hardly a "taxing" job (sorry bout the pun) and certainly not one it's necessary to have a high grade to undertake. I strongly suspect this unfortunate bugger was only doing what he/she had been doing for years. It's not him/her that lost the CDs - that is TNTs fault alone.

All the Civil Service depts I've worked in outsource their courier - and like any other business, this generally goes to the cheapest bid - common practise. In this case TNT. I suspect the Security Service, MOD, GCHQ etc... do not use a private contactor but I could be wrong.

I have a strong suspicion this information couldn't be sent electronically as it's common for civil service depts to put a 4MB limit on email attachments (they use the GTN so it's a secure VPN (run by Cable & Wireless if you must know)) and they won't have any other means of electronically sending such a large volume of data or they would have used it - my department has no network access to NAO systems, I doubt any department does.

I'd bet cash money that the database lost was a .mdb file

Anyway - contrary to what I've said here, I'm not defending the civil service. Officers are sacked every week for computer misuse and data protection breaches. I'm a signed up member of NO2ID because there's no way in Hell I'd trust this government, and the civil service I work for to keep an ID card database secure. If you've got an ounce of sense, you wouldn't trust them either.

Staying anonymous for fear of helicopters.


Another civil servant chipped in with:

I work for HMRC (no not in the Child Benefit Office) and I will let you know why the data was sent in CD format - the simple reason is that the vast majority of staff DO NOT have an external email address so they can email info to people outside of HMRC.

This ignores the fact that the person who sent (more than once !) the info hadnt read the briefings about Data Security ( am an old fart who has) and I know what I can/cant send.

I am not sorry to see the boss go, but at least he has more integrity than any of our elected leaders.

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