It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. The British government managed to lose the personal details of 25 million people there were being sent by internal mail from one department to another on a pair of computer discs. The details included names, dates of birth, addresses. child benefit and national insurance numbers of adults and children, and bank account details. Over seven million families are affected. The problem occurred when a clerk downloaded the entire child benefit database at the Revenue and Customs office last month and sent it via courier to the audit office in London. Downloading the database broke department rules. The password-protected discs weren’t sent by recorded or registered delivery. Things weren’t improved by the fact that senior officials weren’t informed of the loss until November 8, with government members told two days later. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, was forced to announce the loss in Parliament yesterday. Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Kennedy, told the BBC, "What happened was a clear breach of what is laid down in terms of the rules. I accept that there are very serious issues for us to address. That is why we are working so hard to address them. This data should not have been handled in the way that it was. It should have been protected to a much greater level than it was." The Chancellor has told the public that the British Banking Code would protect people in the event of fraud, but people are advised to check their bank accounts for irregular activity, although none have been reported yet. According to reports, it might be difficult to criminals to access bank accounts, but the details are enough to generate massive identity theft if the discs have fallen into the wrong hands. The head of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has resigned in the wake of the news.
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