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The Home Office has lost the names, nationalities, passport numbers and dates of birth of 3,000 seasonal agricultural workers on two CDs in transit to the UK Borders Authority.

The incident, which took place in March, was reported to the Information Commissioner's Office but has only now been publicly disclosed in the Home Office's 2007-08 resource accounts (pdf), published on 8 August 2008.

"This is not a Home Office data loss," said a Home Office spokesperson. "Contrary to agreed procedures, an external contractor sent two discs containing details of foreign nationals to the UK Border Agency by normal post when these should have been sent special delivery. The discs did not arrive. All of the data on these discs was password protected.

"We have worked closely with the external contractor to ensure that all future transfers comply with agreed procedures. The incident was reported to the Information Commissioner and the contractor informed the individuals concerned."

In response, in June the Home Office introduced an encryption service, which must be used for data sent by post. Senders must also use recorded delivery, where deliveries are signed for on receipt.

The document also records that in June 2007 a parent discovered that a child had applied for a passport through the online application progress checking system. The parent contacted the Identity and Passport Service and the ICO was informed.

The website has since been altered so users have to provide a unique passport application reference number, and IPS plans further work with its senior managers to "reduce the number and impact of security incidents".

Away from information security, the report showed that the Identity and Passport Service's outturn (equivalent to revenue) for the financial year was 29 per cent less than estimated, at £56.8m rather than £79.9m. It says that a "slippage in delivery of National Identity Scheme projects and trials" was responsible for £18m of this, with a further £6m from a fall in demand for passports.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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