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UK driver details lost somewhere in America

Transport secretary says data drive unparked

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Personal details of three million British driving test candidates are currently enjoying an extended fly drive holiday in the US, the transport secretary Ruth Kelly admitted this evening.

Kelly told the House of Commons that a hard drive containing the information had disappeared from a “secure facility” in Iowa City, Iowa. The disk was in the care of Pearson Driving Assessments, a contractor to the UK’s driving standards agency. The department was told back in May that the disk had unparked itself.

Kelly insisted that the data was configured specfically for Pearson, and not readily accessible to third parties. She also said the data did not include financial data or national insurance numbers, so the department did not feel it needed to contact the individuals concerned, although a helpline has been put in place.

Personal data for three million driving theory test candidates was on the disk, including names, postal address, phone number, the test fee paid, test centre, a code indicating how the test was paid for and in some cases an email address. It spanned candidates for the theory test from September 2004 to April this year.

So together with the fact that it’s in Pearson’s mystery format we can rest easy that should be totally beyond the wits of any ID fraudsters to take advantage of the data. Most of the individuals listed on the hard drive can be assumed to be in their late teens or early twenties, and therefore unlikely to have had their details hosed out the door in the HMRC data debacle.

Kelly today called for backup from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which duly said it did not feel the data breach held as much potential for mis-use as that set free by HMRC.

Kelly said the government would review the rules surrounding the sending and storage of data outside the UK. Her statement came immediately after one from Chancellor Alistair Darling, who updating MPs on HMRC’s fruitless search for CDs containing the child benefit database.

"The public have a right to expect that the information they provide to government will be held securely and used appropriately," Kelly told MPs. The public might also naively feel they have a right to have their personal data kept in the UK, and not sent to any third countries, particularly one with as cavalier an attitude to data privacy as the US.®

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