Latest data blunder rocks faith in government security record

Faith in the government's ability to keep...

Faith in the government's ability to keep citizens' personal information safe has been dealt yet another blow by a new case of data loss.

This time the private details of the users of one of the biggest public sector websites could have been exposed to unauthorised access.

The Government Gateway website provides a number of services, including online tax returns, to around 12m registered users.

It was temporarily closed at the weekend after the contractor responsible for the site reported that a memory stick containing user names and passwords had been lost by an employee.

The memory stick was later found in a car park in Cannock, Staffordshire where the contractor, Atos Origin, is based.

The contractor said the memory stick had been removed from is premises in "direct breach" of operating procedures.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is considering terminating it contract with Atos Origin, according to the Financial Times.

The DWP claimed the memory stick contained details of a "handful" of individuals, but said the matter was a "serious breach" of rules.

Last month, the Home Office terminated a contract with PA Consulting for losing the details of 84,000 prisoners held on a memory stick.

PA Consulting was contracted to process data from the prison service's J-Track system for helping police officers track and rehabilitate prolific offenders.

The latest data blunder comes just weeks before the government plans to begin rolling out its controversial ID card scheme.

It has said repeatedly that it will forge ahead with the plan despite growing concerns over data losses by government departments.

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