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UK.gov loses 29 million personal records

Magnificent year-long datachunder

UK government departments have managed to leak a total of 29 million personal records over a single year.

In addition to the 25 million records spilled in the infamous lost child benefit CDs debacle, another four million records went astray in other stuff-ups, some of which have previously gone unreported.

Since the HMRC data loss fiasco, Whitehall departments have begun to include data of information leaks as part of their annual financial statements. An analysis of these figures by the BBC revealed that personal information disclosures across UK government departments, excluding information on the lost child benefit CDs, averaged 300,000 records a month in the year up until April 2008 (the end of the UK tax year).

The loss of three million records of driving-test candidates by the Department of Transport in May 2007 makes up the bulk of these figures. The disappearance of an unencrypted laptop containing 620,000 personal records, including sensitive financial information such as bank account and National Insurance numbers, by the Ministry of Defence in January was another big contributor to the running count.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said that measures introduced in the wake of reports into the HMRC data loss had established improved data handling procedures. "Departments are taking intensive action to improve data security, including extra training for hundreds of thousands of staff, and the problems reported in recently published resource accounts were made public as a result of this new approach," he said.

Opposition Cabinet Office spokesman Francis Maude said that the data loss figures show that the government "can't be trusted to protect people's personal details".

"Ministers should think again about its even more risky and intrusive projects such as the identity card database, the all-encompassing children's database and the property database for the council tax revaluation," Maude said, the Telegraphreports. ®

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