Home Office condemned for losing data mash-up while millions of banks details sold for £35

The recent Home Office data loss should be put into the perspective of the previously unpublicised loss of a million bank records and the consultation on implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive, plans to collate that which is retained in a central database, the recommendations of papers like “The power of information” and the services already available from Google, let alone those being proposed by Garlik  Phorm and others.

Should such mash-ups (i.e. collations of information from multiple sources) be permitted, encouraged or mandated because the technology enables it, because they might bring benefit (usually speculative, unspecified and/or unquantified) or because ministers have to live up to the statements of their predecessors that “something” will be done about …?

Should data be retained for longer than is absolutely necessary to conduct the transaction – for whatever suppsoed reason?

At this point we should discount the arguments of regulators, compliance officers, legal advisors and industry experts until we understand their vested interest in complexity. We should similarly remember the links between civil and animal rights activists, pederasts, religious extremists and others who wish to communicate anonymously. Then there are the vested interests of the Internet Service providers who wish to sell our details to pay-per-click advertisers or provide them to those policing on-line downloads at the same time as assuring us that we can trust them to look after our interests.

 “High on a hill truth stands

And he who would reach her

About and about must go

And what the hill’s suddenness resists win so”


John Donne was not only a great erotic poet in his youth. He was Dean of St Paul’s at a time when all around him were certain of their rectitude, whether in the creation of an absolutist state to protect the people against themselves or their “ancient liberties” against a King who spent his revenues on papist art while expecting them to pay for ships to protect Cornwall against Barbary Pirates (the El Quaeda of the day).

So how do we ensure practical and realistic debate on the issues of data governance – given that 2/3 of the UK and 1/5 of the population (and criminals) of the world are on-line?

Who should be involved? How?

And how do we ensure that those in a position to turn rhetoric into reality are listening?

They have heard the views of technophiliacs and technophobes alike but we can see growing concern that the silent majority, the victims alias users, have started to vote with their wallets  

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.


Are you saying that all mash-ups are wrong, all data sharing is wrong, all massive data-bases are wrong, the NHS Spine is a mistake etc? Heretical stuff!

I confess, like you, I am beginning to wonder, myself, after all the recent evidence that today's IT practitioners are a load of data-losers and incompetent project managers.

Bring back Bletchley Park, where no one lost anything and kept silence for thirty years. And created the first computer system in the world in about three years flat.

Philip Virgo reply: not necessarily all, but ....

Regarding Bletchely: I have been reading "Action this day", an excellent collection of essays and memoires on the achievements. These were only possible, however, because of the inability of the Germans to enforce discipline on the Enigma users - froim Generals down - compounded by the wilfull ignorance, despite the evidence, that they were being read.