Despite all of those claims that data security in the public sector had been tightened up so that the loss of the HMRC discs, the loss of secret files on laptops, and the leaving of top secret intelligence briefings on trains could never happen again, the Home Office have now managed to lose a file stuffed full of personal information about almost 130,000 convicts, laying taxpayers open to potential lawsuits and informants in danger of far worse.
It's certainly true that a lot of these cases are down to stupidity, incompetence, poor training, shoddy management and chaotic data management procedure. In this case the Home Office tried to blame the loss purely on their contractor, but have had to admit that they sent the information to the company in an unencrypted format in the first place. The question is, are these flaws in data management problems that can ever be stamped out? The fact that no matter how much the Government thinks it is tightening things up, huge amounts of data still get lost should by now have communicated the message that they are fighting a losing battle.
It's not simply a question of piling procedure on procedure and eventually not losing anything - in reality they are gathering so much data, and operate in such a troubled environment of mismanagement and unaccountability, that they are bound to keep losing our information indefinitely. They are like Henry in the song "There's a hole in my bucket" - desperately trying to patch up an unpatchable system.
The solution, therefore, is to stop gathering so much information. There is little need for much of the screeds of information held on countless databases throughout Government - and if they weren't so insistent on centralised big government there would be even less need for it all.
Worryingly, the ID card and accompanying identity database threaten to take us in the opposite direction, collecting even more information of even more sensitive a nature. Unless the scheme is stopped in its tracks, today's news will seem like a tea party in comparison with the fiasco which we can practically guarantee will occur sooner or later.
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