back to article Civil service apologises for HMRC data loss

Everyone whose information was included on the two CDs of child benefit recipients which the government lost should have received a written apology this morning. The letter - from Dave Hartnett, acting chairman of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs - apologises for the loss and claims: "The copy of the data is still likely to …


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  1. Dazzer

    Where's mine?

    I didn't get mine. Maybe it's lost in the post.

  2. Bob Jones

    I wonder if ...

    The letter sent will include all the data they lost on you?

    "Hello Mr Boris Jones,

    We recently had a little snapfoo in which we lost some discs with your private data on, don't worry the HMRC still know you exist and will continue to tax you and take your money, the Police won't forget to their routine checks that you might be a terrorist or a Tory and the NHS will make sure you don't smoke or eat, don't worry we still have all the information we need to guide your life in the right direction. We regret that some non-Government persons may also have all the info they need, we will continue searching the Tory HQ and especially the Lib Dem quarters to make sure your data wasn't taken by the named suspects.

    For your information, and that of your postman here is all the data we have on you:

    Name: Boris Johnson

    Terrorist Risk: 99, Likely Tory.

    Health Risk: 88, Smoker, Fatty ... Likely Tory.

    Taxability: 99, earns a lot of money.

    DNA: 010101101110000110

    Bank Account: 0123 4567 8978 [10/07] [10/10] 999

    Address: 01 Brown Road, Darling, Ars Ho1e, WA4 KER.

  3. John Macintyre


    Nah, it's probably "still likely to be on Government property"

  4. Tom Chiverton

    terms of reference

    "practices and procedures in the handling and transfer of confidential data"

    Where's "why was it not physically impossible to do it, regardless of any procedure that was or was not followed" ?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    yes, would you believe it

    The letter contains your address, your child benefit number AND your National Insurance number, unbelievable.

  6. Duncan Hothersall

    World's largest data loss?

    I very much doubt it. First of all, there are lots and lots of data losses we don't know about, either because they have been covered up or, more likely, no-one knows they happened.

    Second, we do know that CardSystems lost 40 million Visa and AmEx records to a malicious hack in 2005; US Dept. of Veterans' Affairs lost 28 million records through incompetence in 2006; and TK(J)Maxx was soft-hacked to reveal 45 million credit card account details and personal data on a further 47 million people totalling 94 million people's data exposed between 2005 and 2007.

    So, not to diminish the idiocy of our home-grown buffoons, I would point out that as with most things, the US has done it bigger and better already...

  7. David Cook
    Thumb Down

    Easy Come..... Easy Go.....

    More of our hard earned income tax p....s.d away.

    I don't suppose anybody at HMRC stopped to think that a mail shot to the 7 million effected households is going to cost anything up to £4,000,000.

    As a family with two children under 5 we are definitely on those disks. I have heard and read all the spin, half-truths and fuddled explanations I need. The last thing we want is more junk mail sent out at our direct expense.

  8. Spleen


    So if there are any identity brokers who haven't got hold of the discs yet, all they have to do is raid the dustbins tonight until they find the Government's letter - which they know is there because the story about these letters is in the press.

    I notice they still haven't published the NI numbers of the Cabinet and the Permanent Secretaries to show just how little an identity thief can do with this information.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As the scandal around the HMRC Child Benefit data breach intensifies, even some sceptical Labour MPs are calling for a (temporary) halt to the ID cards scheme. This is not enough. MPs of all parties should be calling for the immediate and permanent scrapping of the Home Office's "identity management" programme.

    Not just the card, not just the database, but also the mass 'data-sharing' that lies at the heart of government ID policy.

    NOW is the time to write to your MP via asking that he or she demand an immediate and permanent stop to all development of ID cards and a National Identity Register.

    If you don't already know his or her position, you can check how your MP voted on the ID cards legislation at

    Be polite, be concise and make your points clearly - read NO2ID's lobbying guide (21KB PDF file) for advice on how to write an effective letter. Absolutely insist. The more MPs that receive mail on this from their constituents, the more the pressure will build to drop the scheme.

  10. RW

    A Few Applicable Truisms

    "Words are cheap"

    "Actions speak louder than words"

    "Ministerial responsibility is the heart of the parliamentary system"

    "Adding insult to injury"

    "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Letter isn't for Dads though

    Well, I guess they have to send them to the mums first.... Single Dads come a distant second.

  12. Anonymous John

    Re: Where's mine?

    I haven't had one either.

    No kids though.

  13. Ivor Bierd
    Black Helicopters


    Er, what did you have in mind? If you want to get someone get their kids. The government are so hell-bent on ID cards they leaked the Child Benefit register - (privacy is a moot point now isn't it?). Even if you vote Tory and they get in and they keep their promises - the EU will require all kids to have biometric passports by 2009. There are any number of other threats of similar vein. Resistance may be futile but I know where I want Gordon's chip implanted...

  14. Dave

    Extreme measures

    "People who use their child's name or data of birth for a password are advised to change it."

    A bit harsh on the kids, isn't it?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    So which senior manager, sorry Junior Official, was asked to pull 25m names and addresses off the files somewhere so that they could be mail-merged into an MS-word doc on some (probably virus-ridden) PC and spammed^H^H^H^H^H^H^H mailed all over the country?"

  16. BitTwister

    Here we go again

    > "The copy of the data is still likely to be on Government property. The police are now conducting a search, there is no evidence that it is in the possession of anyone else."

    They can't resist spinning, can they? The location of the data is unknown so it's as likely to be OFF Government property as on it (not that being on Government property is anything of an assurance since they just give data away these days), and seeing no evidence that it is in the possession of anyone else just says "we don't know where it is".

    And this is supposed to make people feel better? Brilliant...

  17. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    all efforts are being made to ensure that such a loss can never happen again

    Would that mean that

    1) they're learning how to do an SQL query properly, and

    2) they're hiring a special courier to convey the disks ?

    Given that a mass-mailing of 7 million letters is likely to cost several million itself, I think the cost of a special courier dedicated to just conveying data disks will be largely funded by this disgraceful accident for years to come.

    Oh, and one last thing : which senior official lost his job over this ? Nobody ? Then how can you say "all efforts are being made" when there is no sanction for making the error in the first place ?

    It's just a load of political arse-covering.

  18. graeme leggett

    Saving money

    They sent it second class so thats 10p saved per envelope.

    Mind you my wife's letter came but not my own. I hope it hasn't gone missing in the post!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't add up

    I'm sure this has been aired here before but I just don't understand this. The lost disks are always described as "2 CDs". To me that means about 1.5 Gig of space. They contain details of 25 million citizens. That means 60 bytes per citizen. Given that the data is likely to be in some hideous Microsoft format that needs at least 10 bytes of garbage for every byte of data I just don't see how 2 CDs could contain enough data for anyone to worry about - even with compression. What am I missing?

  20. Jimmy

    With apologies to Billy Connolly

    By the way, big man, whit is a database onyway?

    Och Alisdair, ahve telt ye before, its just like a big family tree.

    An is that how they call it a relational database, Gordo?

    Aye, thats the gemme Al, yer begining tae get the idea noo.

    Jings, Gordo, ahm really sorry aboot they 25 million records ah lost.

    Dinna you bother yer heid aboot that, Al, jist you leave it tae me.

    Ur ye gonny fix it wi wan o yer magic biometric thingummys?

    Stand on me, kiddo, biometric ID cards will solve all oor problems.

    Does that mean aw they corporate partners o oors will make loads of dosh?

    Aye, but remember Al, in a free-market economy everyone benefits through the trickle-down effect.

    And does that mean everybody will be pishin themselves, big man?

    Aye, but we can fix that wi a bit o light-touch regulation.

    See you, Gordo, you're terrific, so ye are.

    Ah know Al, ah know.

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