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In our Taking Liberties blog, not only will we keep you uptodate on the progress of the film, we'll also post news about the ongoing civil liberties movements we're related to.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Who needs privacy anyway?

If I wanted to illustrate why you shouldn't entrust the government with personal data, I would never have concocted an arse up on the scale of the delicious disaster down at Revenue and Customs. The government is reeling from the debacle involving the most expensive items to get lost in the post since King George III sent the crown jewels off to get repaired, and forgot to put stamps on the box. 2 x CD's containing the personal records of 25 million people were "mislaid" by Her Magesties Revenue and Customs, and the chief taxman has now fallen on his paperknife in shame. The CD's were password protected (well, that's going slow the hackers down for at least 5 minutes!) but not actually encrypted, which means that we have to assume that all the data is now compromised. The records of the 7 million families that have been mislaid by the government include:

-Names (and don't forget these are family records, so it will be pretty straightforwards to work out maiden names as well)
-Dates of Birth
(this is all my bank needs to access my account by the way)
-Bank Account details (just in case the above doesn't work)
-National Insurance numbers

Now catastrophic as this is, it is in some ways manageable. Bank account numbers and national insurance numbers can be changed, so if it looks like these ahve fallen into criminal hands there is a level of protection. It'll cost the government (and therefore us) a small fortune to fix, but people can be issued new numbers rendering the stolen numbers useless. The really terrifying thing is to look at will happen when a similar balls up occurs in 5 years time (and, people being people, this sort of thing will happen again) but this time with the data held on the National Identity Register. When then NIR is breached (and with 60 million records that can be accessed by about half a million people, this is going to happen very easily and very quickly), it is going to be far more than just numbers that are stolen. Our fingerprints, iris scans, general biometirc information and possibly DNA will be what gets left in the back of a taxi, and when that happens the government is not going to be able to turn aruond and issue us all with new fingers, eyes or DNA. The more information that is put on a central computer, the greater the risk it has of being compromised. The NIR is the mother of all public databases, and it when it finally arrives will be the source of data breaches that make the loss of these 2 CD's seem like forgetting where you put your keys in the morning.


Dariush Alavi said...

I thought you'd publish a post on the little accident.

It's just shocking isn't it... but, as you say, not surprising.

At least we got an official apology, eh?

Taking Liberties said...

well an apology just makes it sooooo much better then.

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