The big news this morning is that Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, Vince Cable, has made public via the Financial Times an "edited text" of a letter sent to him by a former employee of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which accuses the regulator of "apathy and complacency" in its regulation of building societies during the boom.
However Cable might not be considered a trustworthy outlet for whistleblowers in the future following the way the letter, published among other places on FT.com in PDF format, has been handled. Because although some parts of the letter have been overwritten with XXXXX to conceal information, significant parts of the letter have been blacked out instead. Only the blacking out does not work and those parts of the letter can be clearly viewed if the text is copied and pasted into Word or Notepad. As a result, potentially sensitive information that was not intended for public consumption, including the names of Building Societies and individuals, can easily be viewed.
The way Cable and the FT have handled this document is frankly appalling and will doubtless make people think twice about relying on them to publish items securely in future. The whistleblower can consider themselves lucky their details were not on the PDF and blacked out in the same way. This error is also likely to cause huge embarrassment to those institutions and people whose names appear when they should have been properly concealed.
What an utter disgrace. Amateur night. Perhaps Saint Vince might like to join the long queue of people saying 'sorry' this week. Or prepare for his parliamentary office to be raided.
UPDATE: If I were a customer of the Principality or the Newcastle and West Bromwich, I would not feel very reassured this morning.
UPDATE 12.22: Jim Pickard, the author of the FT article has been in touch. He feels the headline on this piece is unfair. He also makes clear that the FT converted the PDF and not Vince, and it's not Vince's fault. I think he protests too much. I don't think the headline is unfair on Vince. It was his responsibility, as well as Jim's, to ensure this didn't happen. I also defend the headline. The details revealed make it far easier for the FSA to identify who it was, I'd have thought. I have handled documents like this before when working for DD. First rule is you never let it out of the office unless you are prepared for the whole thing to appear. You do the deletions yourself and don't rely on others. If Vince had done that, this wouldn't have happened.