Whitehall reports 30 data losses since November

The information commissioner has criticised further 'inexcusable' data losses in the public and private sectors since the HMRC fiasco in November

Since HM Revenue & Customs reported in November that it had lost the details of 25 million child-benefits claimants, Whitehall has suffered a further 30 security breaches, the Information Commissioner's Office revealed on Monday.

The breaches came to light in a written answer from justice minister Michael Wills to a question from shadow cabinet minister Francis Maude. Wills said Whitehall had reported 30 data breaches to the ICO since November, while local government had reported 17, other public-sector organisations had reported 50, and the private sector had reported 41.

Information commissioner Richard Thomas said that, while levels of understanding about the need to safeguard personal data were improving in the public and private sectors, "more must be done to eradicate inexcusable security breaches".

"It is particularly disappointing that the HMRC [HM Revenue & Customs] breaches have not prevented other unacceptable security breaches from occurring," said Thomas. "The government, banks and other organisations need to regain the public's trust by being far more careful with people's personal information. Once again, I urge business and public-sector leaders to make data protection a priority in their organisation."

While the ICO declined to name the individual organisations involved, it said that information that has gone missing includes unencrypted laptops and computer discs, memory sticks and paper records. Information has been stolen, and gone missing in the post and while in transit with a courier. The material involved includes a wide range of personal details, including financial and health records.

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