Catalogue of data blunders

Friday 22 August 2008 09:52 BST

The loss of a computer memory stick containing information on thousands of criminals is the latest in a series of embarrassing losses of confidential information.

* On November 20 last year, Chancellor Alistair Darling admitted to MPs that computer discs holding personal information on 25 million people and 7.2 million families had gone missing.

He said the details included names, addresses, dates of birth, Child Benefit numbers, National Insurance numbers and bank or building society account details.

* The Department of the Environment revealed on December 11 that two computer discs containing the names and addresses of 7,685 Northern Ireland motorists had disappeared.

The information went missing at a sorting centre in Coventry and was not encrypted.

The material had been sent from Northern Ireland Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine, Co Londonderry, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea.

* On the same day, it emerged that confidential personal details of dozens of prisoners had been mistakenly sent to a private business.

Thought to have been intended for Norfolk Police, the letters included names, dates of birth and criminal histories of dozens of inmates set to be released.

They also revealed the addresses the prisoners would move to after leaving jail, sources said.

* On December 17, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly announced that the details of three million candidates for the driving theory test had gone missing.

Names, addresses and phone numbers were among details on a computer hard drive which went missing in the US in May last year.

The hard drive belonged to a contractor working for the Driving Standards Agency.

* On January 19 this year, it emerged that a Royal Navy officer's laptop containing the details of 600,000 people had been stolen.

The computer was taken on January 9 in Birmingham and reported the following morning.

It contained personal information from people who had signed up to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force and from people who had expressed an interest in joining.

* On June 10 documents relating to al Qaida in Pakistan and the security situation in Iraq were left on a train and later handed to the BBC.

The documents were said to have been left in an orange cardboard envelope on a train from London Waterloo to Surrey by an intelligence official working in the Cabinet Office.

The envelope was picked up by another passenger.

* On June 11 a second batch of secret government files were discovered on a train bound for London's Waterloo Station. The files related to a week-long conference of the international Financial Action Task Force.

They were said to include details of how trade and banking systems could be manipulated to finance illicit weapons of mass destruction in Iran.

* On June 18 it emerged that a desktop PC had been stolen from Communities Secretary Hazel Blears' constituency office in Salford which contained sensitive documents.

The information was not thought to have been encrypted and The Department of Communities and Local Government admitted its officials had "not fully" complied with guidance on handling sensitive data.

* The same day, it was announced that six laptops had been stolen from St George's Hospital, in Tooting, south London.

The laptops, containing information about around 20,000 patients including 3,000 children, were stolen from a locked cabinet in an office in the Atkinson Morley Wing of the teaching hospital between June 6 and June 9.

July 18: The Ministry of Defence admitted that 658 of its laptops have been stolen over the past four years, nearly double the figure previously claimed. The department also said 26 portable memory sticks containing classified information had been either stolen or misplaced since January.

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