Data tsar raises alarm at 'inexcusable' loss of personal information

The Government's Information Commissioner has expressed his concern at the rise in instances of personal data being lost by both private and public organisations.

Richard Thomas said he knew of 94 serious losses of personal data, of which the information had been recovered in only three cases. Roughly two-thirds of breaches occurred in the public sector. Data to have gone missing includes bank details and even personal medical records.

Mr Thomas called on the public and private sector to eliminate such "inexcusable" losses.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the City regulator, issued its own warning over the failure of banks, building societies and insurers to protect customers' information. In a strongly worded statement, it said firms routinely "underestimate the risk of data loss and fraud to their businesses, and especially to their customers. This includes senior management not recognising the value of customers' data to fraudsters, or that staff could pose a similar threat to security as that posed by computer hackers and burglars."

The issue of the loss of personal data came to the fore last autumn, when HM Revenue & Customs lost disks containing the national insurance details of up to 25 million British adults. They have still not been recovered.