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UK: Data on thousands of prisoners has been lost

UK: Data on thousands of prisoners has been lost

Information on every prisoner in England and Wales has been lost, the British government confirmed Thursday, including the names, dates of birth, and addresses of more than 30,000 repeat offenders.
A spokeswoman for Britain's Home Office, responsible for managing the country's prisons, said a contractor mislaid a memory stick containing the names and dates of birth of 84,000 inmates _ England and Wales' entire prison population.
The stick also carried the home addresses of 33,000 criminals who had committed six or more recordable convictions over the last 12 months, she said, along with information on 10,000 of what she called "prolific and priority offenders." She spoke anonymously in line with departmental policy.
The damaging data loss is the latest in a humiliating series of blunders to humble the British government, which is finalizing plans for an ambitious national identification program and expanding its DNA database _ already the largest in the world per capita.
Millions of names and personal details from across the country have been reported lost in the past year and in June, the government published a high-level report on how it hoped to improve its data handling practices.
The Home Office spokeswoman identified the contractor responsible for the breach as PA Consulting Group Ltd., a leading management consultancy, and said further transfers of such data to the organization had been halted.
The spokeswoman said PA Consulting first informed officials of the loss on Monday, and confirmed Tuesday that the memory stick could not be located. Police were then called in to try to locate it.
She defended the Home Office's decision not to immediately make the loss public, saying authorities were informed as early as possible and that "things happened quickly."
She said PA Consulting had the data stick as part of research it was doing for the Home Office "tracking offenders through the criminal justice system." She refused to elaborate.
PA Consulting spokesman David Stevens refused to say anything about the loss or the research his company was undertaking for the government.
"Given that an investigation is proceeding, we've got no comment to make," he said.
Britain's government has been pounded by one data loss after another over the past year.
Two sets of secret government files were left on commuter trains in June, leading to the suspension of a senior intelligence official. Departments have also lost track of computers, discs and other records carrying information on tens of thousands of prospective military recruits, driving-test candidates, and hospital patients. In November, tax officials announced that they had lost discs containing information on 25 million people _ nearly half the country's population.
David Smith, a deputy commissioner in the British Information Commissioner's Office, said personal information could be a "toxic liability" if not handled properly.
"It is deeply worrying that after a number of major data losses and the publication of two government reports on high profile breaches of the Data Protection Act, more personal information has been reported lost," the British Broadcasting Corp. quoted him as saying.


Updated : 2021-05-08 11:33 GMT+08:00