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HMRC manual on data protection was protected data

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HMRC restricted details of its security procedures to senior officials, it has emerged, just weeks after the department pilloried a junior official for loading the UK’s child benefit database onto CDs which were then lost.

The department had a detailed manual covering procedures for handling the benefits database and other sensitive information. However, the manual itself was considered too sensitive to be widely distributed, so it was restricted to civil servants only, The Guardian reports.

Junior staff – ie, the sort of people who will probably be doing most of the grunt work in any large organization – were treated instead to a web-hosted much more general version, reminding them of the need to respect confidentiality, the paper reports.

The disclosure makes the government’s initial fingerpointing at a junior official for downloading the data look even more unfair. It quickly emerged that more senior officials had actually ordered the downloading of the data.

HMRC refused to comment on The Guardian’s story this morning, saying it would be inappropriate ahead of this afternoon’s release of the preliminary report into the data debacle.

But a spokeswoman for the department said there were several sets of procedures within the department.

“That’s what the review was called to look at,” a spokeswoman said. ®

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