An obsolete PC sold on by a blue blood bank "contained 108 files relating to Sir Paul McCartney's private cash dealings". The PC was released into the second-user market without first being wiped clean of data relating to money movements in Sir Paul's account.
According to The Express, merchant bankers Morgan Grenfell Asset Management had "simply failed to erase the memory contained on the computer's hard disk". Other client details contained on the PC included a "large charity for the blind, the Cancer Research Campaign, the International Association of Odd Fellows and a duchess".
Tonight, Channel 4 News will broadcast the findings of Jonathan Calvert and Peter Warren, a well-known investigative journalist who specialises in the IT industry. In their research of the second-user PC industry, they established that many "banks and government departments are failing to take sufficient care" with the PCs they sell on.
In an interview with The Express, Jon Godfrey, consultant at Technical Asset Management, the Welwyn, Herts PC disposal company, said: "There are tens of millions of second-hand computer systems freely available in the open market with commercially sensitive data on.
"Companies are careless when they replace computer systems, not thinking about what happens to the old PCs. But they have a duty to clients not to pass on confidential information. It's gross commercial neglect."
Under the Data Protection Act, it is an offence for organisations to allow the unauthorised disclosure of personal data. Computers containing sensitive information are supposed to be wiped free of data before being sold on. The only surefire way to achieve this is to overwrite information hundreds of times using software such as Sanitizer.
Deutsche Asset Management (as Morgan Grenfell Asset Management is now called) has issued an unreserved apology to any clients who are "embarrassed by this incident". It says it is reviewing its disposal procedures. What will it do to the unnamed disposal company that landed it in this mess? ®
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