Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Evidence of Misuse of Personal Data by HMRC

I've been contacted by someone who, a few weeks ago, wrote to their MP enclosing a copy of a CD containing confidential information about HMRC Tax Credit Office clients that had been sent in error by HMRC to him.

This person had called HMRC asking for a CD audio copy of telephone conversations they’d had with HMRC when discussing their Tax Credit award. HMRC sent them a CD not only with their recordings but with two hours’ worth of recordings from people right across the country containing bank details, NI Numbers, addresses, phone numbers, details of which schools people’s children went to etc.

I'm told the MP forwarded the letter and CD to a Minister asking if they could ascertain if this was a more widespread problem within HMRC. So far, no reply has been forthcoming.

This seems to be further evidence that this misuse of public data is widespread within government.

If HMRC has breached the Data Protection Act then presumably they can be held liable in the courts - by 15 million people... The mind boggles.

31 comments:

Ed said...

This is nothing short of scandalous. The scale seems to be on a level not seen before - and we are supposed to trust these people to set up and run a national ID scheme?

They couldn't organise their way out of a paper bag.

Madasafish said...

There is NO IF about breaching The Data Protection Act.

They have.
15 million times.

In a commercial organisation, there would be widescale sackings: in IT, Audit, finance, Management, security and HR.

Cos the systems that should be in place to prevent this - and should be regularly checked to ensure they are followed...
are either not there,
not checked
and definitely not followed.

michael said...

The fantasists and conspiracy theorists (basically Labour die-hards on the defensive) can squawk all they want about this one - it is a bloody catastrophe even by third world standards.

Hopefully:

(1) the death of ID cards
(2) the end of career for some shoddy politicians
(3) the end of this administration

strapworld said...

I am looking forward to PMQ's tomorrow. I hope that all the questions from Conservatives and Lib Dems will be either on Northern Rock or this scandal and all asking Brown when he will resign!!

I reckon he will crack up

Anonymous said...

NO names no sources. MADE IT ALL UP ..Iain

Not a sheep said...

A shame that it is rumoured that Gordon Brown wont be there tomorrow; has he really gone to Uganda?

Anonymous said...

I wonder. If there was an election tomorrow, and god forbid you won. Would you pull the rug from under N Rock...

Oppostion is easy

Iain Dale said...

You seriously think I would make up something like that? It's called protecting sources.

If you really think I'd make something up as serious as that, why on earth would you ever bother reading this blog?

I can assure you it is 100% true. There's nothing I'd like better than to reveal more about this, but if I did no one would ever send me information like this ever again.

When I am sent such information I do actually check it out. And that's what I did here.

Curly said...

In a time, long since past, Ministers would have "done the honourable thing".

Is there any honour left at all today?

Anonymous said...

In the summer the DoH managed to cock-up 'MTAS' which subsequently openly posted personal information of medical students applying for doctor jobs on the internet. This included criminal records and sexuality. A second similar 'lapse' occured just days later.

At the time the information commissioner and the police were contacted. Nothing happened - no accountability whatsoever.

In the papers this weekend was a story suggesting that doctors who have confidential info on their laptops could be fined or even struck off. Blatant hypocrisy from the government.

...and now this. It is clear that this bunch of imbeciles are not fit to run the country.

Labour are dying. It's obvious, and not a moment too soon.

Chris Paul said...

Mistake not misuse. Serious nonetheless. But different.

Nick said...

If Brown's not around for PMQs, does that mean Hague gets to have a go at Harman? Could be messy.

JERRY HAYES said...

There is a lot of careless talk that Darling will will resign over the Northern Rock fiasco (he can't really be blamed for the benefits cock up). Don't hold your breath. The bottler must have made the decision and the sacking of his poodle would only leave him exposed to take the rap. Anyhow, we would have the horror of Balls as the new Chancellor. How strange that Gordon was happy to take the credit when the press thought that the Northern Rock rescue was sound and statesmanlike. The weak are a long time in politics.

jamie [http://mypoliticalweb.com] said...

Now that this is actually the biggest news story of the year (i can't think of a bigger one offhand), and Darling has confirmed it, maybe even the labourites reading this blog will be forced to admit that it is the biggest and most shocking failure of a government in at least a generation.

This is not something that will die down in a week or so. This is one of those once-every-15-years stories, where the ramifications will still be felt in years to come.

This is Labour's 1992. This is their 'Black Tuesday', and this will contribute immeasurably towards their downfall.

Thank goodness i don't have kids yet...

jamie [http://mypoliticalweb.com] said...

i just had to quote Alan in Dunstable, from the BBC 'have your say' site:

Well perhaps we will all get given new bank accounts. 25 million new accounts should put Northern Rock back on it's feet in no time - you see every cloud has a silver lining.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Anon 7:53

"Would you pull the rug from under N Rock..."

Well whose bleeding rug is it anyway? You bet I'd pull it - I'd rip it out from under.

All this claptrap about 'we Northeners are made of sterner stuff' - to quote that stupid bint being interviewed for television outside her local branch, swearing that she was going to leave all her cash in the bank. Well I'll bet things are pretty stern for her right now.

"Opposition is easy"

Something new here? Anyway, no doubt NuLab will be finding just how easy very soon. They're certainly making a pigs ear of governance.

DR ANDREW JOHN KITCHING said...

We had 2 letters from Reading Borough Council last week, saying thank you for applying for a postal vote. My wife phoned them and said that we hadn't applied. We were told rather dismissively that it was an electronic error, as we had renewed our electoral register details by phone.

Seems a bit fishy to me. Labour council, marginal seat (Reading East)etc. etc.

We had voting fraud here a few years ago.

Anonymous said...

I am recently divorced but maintain a decent relationship with my ex-wife. She is a highly intelligent person who has little interest in the news. When I phoned her tonight to tell her about the Darling Disaster, she was utterly unsighted. As a parson who definitively examines her bank statements she'll be fine but millions will be vulnerable and I mean MILLIONS!

John Trenchard said...

"This is Labour's 1992. This is their 'Black Tuesday', and this will contribute immeasurably towards their downfall."

via Sky News I learn that Mr Darling has advised that people should not close their bank accounts , in the wake of this 25 million data record fiasco.

Expect a run on the banks so. Or at least, lots of accounts being closed and new ones reopened - at the very least the banks will be swamped.

Guess where the roots of this fiasco originate? The tax credit system.

i.e. Gordon Brown.

If we did not have tax credits, the government would not have so much information, and thus this fiasco would not have occured.

javelin said...

A question for the Audit Office is "Did you receive any CDs with identifying information through the post in the past 10 years [whilst Gordon was Minister] from the Treasury?"

Rachel said...

I don't want to seem like a scare mongerer but after litening to the speeches in the commons this afternoon and the subsequent news reports I feel that one issue has been skirted over and to me this is far worse than someone getting hold of my bank details. The names, ages and addresses of all of our children are possibly available to the highest bidder and in this fantastic world of children snatched to order and paedophiles that really scares me!

John Trenchard said...

rachel. as a parent myself, that thought has crossed my mind too.

however, i would expect Russian Mafia or Al Qaeda to outbid any paedo in what will be a massive underworld auction for the data which would fetch several million quid , if not more, in my view.

Russian Mafia : names and addresses to send those "you've won the lottery" scams. plus credit card fraud. plus benefit fraud... the list is endless.

Al Qaeda: endless possibilities for stealing your identity and thus suddenly to dissapear from the MI5 radar.

the fallout could be far far worse than your worst nightmare - innocent people , because of stolen identities, could end up being shot dead by anti-terrorist police or the SAS. THAT is why this is so serious. Forget bank accounts - its the stolen identity stuff that is far more serious - as it buggers up intelligence gathering on terrorists enormously.

Diablo said...

I hear that even that old leftie Bob Piper has suggested that Brown should abandon ID cards!

http://www.bobpiper.co.uk/2007/11/time_to_come_out_gordon.php

What's happening to these lefties? Are they coming to their senses as they begin to smell defeat?

Rejoice, rejoice!

verity said...

Someone over on The Speccie's Coffee House said there is a stench of death about this government. I have smelled it for the past two weeks, actually.

Gordon Brown's dead meat and is beginning to smell.

Praguetory said...

The missing package is a red herring.

Anonymous said...

There is surely another question that doesnt seem to have been raised... we are told they are password protected; but is the HMRC like most organisations and uses "password" or perhaps "1234" Why not have an open thread asking for people to send in their best guess. Afterall it's only the confidential details of more than 25million people.

Anonymous said...

javelin said...
A question for the Audit Office is "Did you receive any CDs with identifying information through the post in the past 10 years [whilst Gordon was Minister] from the Treasury?"

Here are some more.

Exactly how is it known that data was copied onto CDs? Are electronic records kept of all such actions? If so, how many copies of what data have been made in the last ten years? And what exactly was done with it?

When data is copied onto CDs, what is to prevent the CDs being copied onto other CDs (whether for work or criminal purposes)?

Anonymous said...

I believe Iain and it's not the first story I've personally heard like this - working in government as an IT contractor, one comes across ludicrous examples of pathetically bad maladministration every day. The problem is not just political although politicians must take their share of the blame; I'm sure the merger and staff cuts at HMRC have had a role, plus bad planning. When Lloyds merged with TSB, there was a long period when customer service was poor and the organisation has still not fully recovered. That was with professional, commercially driven managers - the civil service is full of bad managers and time servers.

Really we need more root and branch agressive reform of public service - going back to the public service ethos seems unlikely so probably we need to (annoyingly) increase pay for technical cadres within the civil service, cut back on outsourcing (much of which is just sheer profiteering for precious little improvement) and avoid fashionable "restructurings" which usually go wrong.

IT systems across government are generally second-rate and overpriced. Vendors see govt departments through cross-hairs as an easy and highly profitable kill, selling in substandard equipment and services at inflated prices. Someone somewhere needs to get proper budgetary and managerial control of the whole outsourcing industry and start making them work for a living. Sadly as yet I don't hear the Tories arguing for this and I suspect that in office the contractor gravy train will continue - and I speak as one!

zeno said...

I agree with Rachel - I can repair damage to my bank account, but what if something happens to my children as a result of this incredible display of incompetence? What sort of restitution can put that right? This fracas strikes right to the core of family life - if the Government can't see and admit that then they've sunk even lower than I thought.

One of the quotes on the BBC News website is from a prof at Cambridge, saying that this was an accident waiting to happen - because of the Government's incessant desire to centralise everything. He might also have added that the Government has not shown even a basic understanding of IT. Remember the various NHS systems including MTAS?

Oh, and Chris Paul, please don't try to throw up a smokescreen. The attacks on the Government are about its incompetence, not the misuse of data. I am (or rather was until recently) a Labour voter: it does Labour no good at all to be seen trying to squirm out of responsibility like this. Far better to take it on the chin and be honourable about it. My father was a trade unionist and I've voted Labour all my life, but no longer. It's this sort of basic dishonesty and attempting to evade responsibility that have pushed me out of the Labour camp.

Anonymous said...

Is our passport system compromised by the data that has been lost? ie. There is enough data for fraudulent applications?
Not very helpful in the "war or terror" if it is!

Positive thinking said...

Jamie & Alan in Dunstable

A new Government scheme will also generate replacement children, born into a world without plastic bags.

Every new child will have the once in a lifetime opportunity of being named after the Great Leader