ID cards under fire after HMRC debacle

ID cards under fire after HMRC debacle

Summary: The government's competency to manage the national ID cards scheme has been questioned after the loss of 25m confidential records

TOPICS: Security

The shadow chancellor, George Osborne, attacked the government on Tuesday following its disclosure of the loss of the details of 25 million child-benefit claimants, and called into question its competence to safeguard data collected for the national ID cards scheme.

"This will be the final blow for the ambitions of the government for the national ID cards scheme — they simply cannot be trusted with people's personal details," Osborne said. "Never mind the lack of vision — get a grip and deliver a basic level of competence."

Two password-protected discs, containing the names, addresses, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and bank and building society account details of everybody in the UK who claims and receives child benefits, were lost in transit from HM Revenue & Customs to the National Audit Office (NAO). The courier was TNT.

"Let us be clear about this catastrophic mistake," continued Osborne. "The names and addresses of every child in the country, and the bank account details of parents, carers, and guardians have been lost. Half the country will be anxious for the safety of their family, and the security of their bank accounts."

Chancellor Alistair Darling denied that this would put paid to the ID cards scheme, however, insisting that, had the compromised data been linked to biometrics, it would have been more secure.

"The key thing with ID cards is that information is protected by personal biometric information," said Darling. "The problem is we do not have that protection [on the lost HMRC information]. ID cards match up biometric information with information held — there would be a biometric lock with the ID cards system."

However, anti-ID cards campaigners have labelled as "idiocy" the chancellor's comments that biometrics would make the database behind the national ID cards scheme secure.

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"The chancellor is almost criminally naive in making such claims," said Phil Booth of NO2ID. "The whole disaster shows that the government has virtually no capability to safeguard personal details, yet they claim they can keep confidential details secure. The argument that biometrics will make the National Identity Register secure is a fallacy — the whole point is the accumulation of data to be shared across the public and private sectors. Adding in biometric data as the key is absolute idiocy."

Booth added that, for biometrics to truly safeguard personal data as Darling claimed, it would require every use of a person's data, including transfers between government departments, to be authorised by that person physically providing their fingerprint — a clearly unworkable solution.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • 7/7

    I am surprised to see that only 7 out of 7 people have so far found this article of interest?? Does that mean only 8 (now including myself) have read it?

  • Story rating is not mandatory

    Hey - thanks for the Talkback.

    There is no correlation between user ratings
    Andrew Donoghue
  • The real meaning of article ratings

    To answer your question, if an article is rated as 7/7 - that is, seven people out of seven rated it positively, then it means that seven people clicked on the tick at the bottom of the story and nobody clicked on the cross. In other words, everybody who cared to deliver an opinion, found the story useful.

    It's useful feedback for the writers and editors too. We use a pretty comprehensive reporting tool which, among many other things, tells us how many impressions a story generates. But we want to know more than simple page impressions: Without the reader feedback the only metric we have to measure a story's appeal is the traffic it generated (of course we also look at things like where people go after reading the story).

    Adding reader feedback into the mix gives us a much more qualitative feedback mechanism. For instance, if a story only does low traffic but gets a high reader rating that indicates people found it very useful, it may actually be more valuable in some respects than a story that does astronomical traffic but alienates readers to the extent they give it a very low rating (I don think it has happened, but say 1 person out of 500 found it useful).

    Obviously we strive for traffic, because we pay our wages by selling advertising on the site. But we try very hard not to put traffic targets ahead of our readers' interests, and the tick/cross device helps keep a reality check.
  • Blunder with 60.5m records??

    I am truly fearful of what the Govt is going to do with 57 separate pieces of information on the 60.5+m people living in the UK. Can you imagine the nightmare of a few DVD's of all that information in the wrong hands. Please lets hope that the Govt is going to stop with it's CRAZY ideas of centralised databases, and the ID Card!!

    Total madness! Hurry up and bring-on the elections!!
  • 7/7

    Thanks guys. Got it! ;-)

  • Response to: Blunder with 60.5m records??


    I must say, it is a healthy sign to see someone openly display a level of emotional discomfort in respect of the lost/ stolen personal details for 60.5+ MILLION people living in the UK.

    That number is just staggering!!

    I only hope it encourages others to voice their concerns too. But unfortunately, fear of any future repercussions from publicly commenting on such sensitive national issues may actually stop many people from opening their mouths/ minds/ thoughts.

    Perhaps there is some truth to the notion that the collective voice is slowly drowning in a sea of information overload and that the proliferation of one-to-one communication is fracturing the world into many hundreds, if not billions, of individual disparate pieces.