Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Data fiasco keeps getting worse

The lost disc disaster keeps getting worse for the government. This morning the Metropolitan Police have announced that they have finished their primary search with no results, and are therefore offering a £20,000 reward for the discs. Of course, even if they show up, it is highly likely that they have already been duplicated and plundered.

Much more seriously, it appears that the discs contain the names and addresses of up to 350 people who have changed their identities after giving evidence against serious criminals. If one of them is murdered, will we see someone more senior than the chairman of HMRC take responsibility?

The Information Commissioner was rightly on the warpath yesterday. In evidence to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee he said:

"Any massive collection of information like the identity card carries risk … We still have some uncertainties about what the primary purpose of the identity card is … Is it to improve policing, to fight terrorism, to improve public services, to avoid identity theft? I think there is a lot of thinking still to be done on its primary purpose."

Wouldn't it be a good idea for the government to decide what they want their ID database to achieve before they spend £20bn on the scheme?

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