Thank you, darling

It ranks as one of the biggest security lapses in British history and has potentially left millions of UK citizens at risk of ID and bank fraud.


At one point yesterday there were even fears that the government’s loss of discs containing the details of 25 million people in the UK with a child under 16 could lead to a major financial crisis with investors, already nervous after the Northern Rock debacle, closing down their accounts and withdrawing their savings.


Fortunately for everyone there are no indications that the missing data has ended up in the wrong hands. Although, given the somewhat high profile of the story, and assuming that the discs in question have ended up somewhere, it’s puzzling that no-one has handed them back. Although they could, I suppose, currently be sitting in the bottom of The Engineer’s teetering tower of post.


And while the situation represents a genuine and immediate concern for any of the millions of people who’s details have gone awol, it could be a whole lot worse. Because while it’s bad enough that basic financial details have been lost, a similar leak in the future could lead to the loss of people’s complete identity records.


Indeed, the current crisis could seriously dent the plans to introduce biometric ID cards by 2009.


In the face of calls to scrap the £5bn scheme the government has gone into bullish mode, with the chancellor Alistair Darling yesterday confirming that it will be pressing ahead with the scheme and claiming that its biometric element will provide people with an extra tier of protection.


This is unlikely to wash. Whichever way you look at it, the government has demonstrated that it simply cannot be trusted to look after sensitive personal information and the fear that biometric information could also go walk-about could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the plan.


In the meantime, if your bank password is linked to your children’s’ names or birthdates, change it. And whatever you do, don’t let the government know.




Jon Excell