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Will Darling's data giveaway kill off ID cards?

Time for an info breach law

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UK Identity Crisis Anti-ID card campaigners believe that yesterday's admission by Chancellor Alistair Darling that the government has lost records and private information relating to 25 million people could be the nail in the coffin for the ID card project.

A spokesman for campaign group NO2ID said: "It's inevitably good news for our campaign because it proves to people that this government, and indeed any government, cannot be trusted with this amount of information. For 25 million people this is a catastrophe but it is just a small herald of the national ID scheme which would mean a potential catastrophe for 60 million of us."

He continued: "It's always been a difficult notion or concept as to why it's important for people to care what data government has on you and how it deals with it. Sadly, it takes a catastrophe like this to sharpen people's focus on the issue."

Timely research from CA, released yesterday, found that two thirds of UK consumers believe organisations should take more responsibility for protecting personal details online. Only one in four UK consumers trust the government with their data - up two per cent on last year. Researchers spoke to 2,000 people in 2006 and 2007.

Simon Perry, vice president of security strategy at CA, said: "It shows just how much critical data can be contained on a couple of CDs. It appears that it is standard practice to shuttle this data around physically which means there is no audit trail - no way of knowing if the information was accessed or copied. It's good that the government has taken some proactive action in talking to banks but the inconvenience falls on account and card holders - it's about externalising the pain."

Asked whether the scandal has an impact on the ID card scheme, Perry said: "If these issues come up with existing data stores you have to question government claims that a national database can be made rock solid."

In August, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published a report which recommended a law governing data breaches. In October, the government rejected its recommendations.

Perry said he was a big supporter of breach disclosure - legislation which would force companies and government organisations to admit to data breaches.

He said: "The longer the gap between a data breach and people being told about it the greater the risk of fraud occurring. Such disclosures internalise the pain."

William Beer, security practice director for Europe at Symantec, told the Reg: "Twenty-five per cent of data breaches come from governments - because of the amount of data they hold and the number of sites they run. Technology can help with this, but it is not a silver bullet. It's about processes and people too."

Beer also favours legislation to force government departments and other organisations to admit to failures. "Data breach notification laws, as recommended by the House of Lords in August, would help. We've already seen positive impact from similar laws in the US."

Asked if he would be happy putting his personal data into a UK national database, he said: "I'd certainly be asking some questions, I'd have some concerns." ®

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