Call me Russ L

The Civil Service Is Evil #1: Some everyday schmoe (although evil, obviously) has put your information on a disk and lost it

Posted in Modern Living by Russ L on 22 November, 2007

Oh, I’m angry about this new data-loss scandal. Very angry indeed, although (as you’re no doubt already expecting) not for the standard reasons. I am, of course, a government employee. Usually this seems to count as apparent grounds for my opinions to be immediately dismissed, so go ahead if you must. Anyone still here? Blimey.

The fact that people’s private information has been lost is revolting. I’m not attempting to deny that. I don’t think a lot of people are likely to be defrauded a a result (this ‘identity fraud’ lark seems to be one of the boogeymen of the modern age. Of course it happens sometimes, but the way its reported is cretinous. “Shred your letters, there are snoopers searching through rubbish dumps to get your address!” Idiotic.), but for the few that are and the many more that may well find themselves added to mailing lists/tele-canvassing lists this is A Bad Thing. It shouldn’t have happened and the appropriate punitive action deserves to be meted out.

To whom, though? Surprise surprise – the official line appears to be that a “junior member of staff” is responsible.

Please excuse my French, but: Bollocks. Absolute bollocks.

The only caveats I can offer in the interests of fairness are that I don’t work for the HMRC and don’t know what the precise definition of ‘junior’ being used is (it could mean anything if you really wanted it to). There are pretty weak disclaimers, though. I do not believe, not even for a moment, that anyone in a normal everyday job (you know, a normal person. The sort of person you could reasonably describe as a ‘junior member of staff’. For those in the game, I’m looking at AA/AO/EO grades; for those that aren’t, I mean the filing & photocopying type of workers/the actual processing & dealing with customer type workers/the team-leader sorts) would have the sufficient access to this information that you’d need to burn it onto a disk. I don’t really believe that the next couple of grades upwards in the seniority rankings would, either. As I say, ‘maybe’ the HMRC is different to the DWP. I don’t believe it, though.

Things have gone horribly wrong, of that there is no question. The fact that they’ve admitted to it happening doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth, though. I’m completely confident in saying that the fault here lies somewhere higher up than a ‘junior’ member of staff.

You always have to blame it on the ordinary workers though, don’t you?

There may be another (smaller) scandal imminently about to take place, anyway. I’m not sure yet. Add the actual to the potential, though, and you have government-deposing-material.


6 Responses

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  1. […] public combined, works for the Department of Work and Pensions and is therefore a Civil Servant, casts some much welcome light on the recent child benefit CDR thingy: I do not believe, not even for a moment, that anyone in a normal everyday job (you know, a normal […]

  2. brendadada said, on 23 November, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Yeah, although it could conceivably be a lower order techie, I agree that it’s very difficult to be persuaded that the average benefits office clerk could shove a whole database on a CD. They even find it hard to find a single data entry in my experience (sorry).

    Blame-shifters. Always blame the little person.

    What tf were they doing, taking home a huge list like that on a couple of CDs? And the other thing I can’t understand, is how it all fit? Surely you’d need a few more gig than that?

    Very fishy, the whole thing. Maybe it’s a false flag for something else.

  3. ian said, on 24 November, 2007 at 9:15 am

    As I understand it, the HMRC have outsourced their IT. The data extraction was performed by the outsourcers as instructed, and then the junior employee was told to send it to the NAO. I’ve no doubt that the extract was ordered by a senior level, but that doesn’t mean the same person put it in the internal post. Occam’s razor, and all that.

  4. Russ L said, on 24 November, 2007 at 9:31 am

    It is outsourced in the DWP, too. I include the CSOs (they’re not officially called that anymore but everyone still does and I forget the new name) in an individual office to be in the abovementioned categories. They can request (paper) record prints of an individual’s info (subject to normal security procedures) but don’t have access to ‘squillions of people at once’ and not in disk-burnable form. Whoever pressed the button would have, presumably, needed to have specifically been granted special access, by someone higher up.

    My ‘the HMRC may be different’ disclaimer applies again, of course, but my “…but I doubt it” disclaimer on the disclaimer does again too.

    Occam’s Razor is exactly what I’m thinking of. Assuming that some non-bigwig is responsible for all of this raises more questions than it answers.

  5. phil said, on 24 November, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I reckon that any programmer, database administrator or techie in the IT department would have access to copy it and I don’t believe the data couldn’t be truncated to only send names and NI numbers as requested.

  6. Russ L said, on 24 November, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I suppose that’s it, though. We’re all getting down to what we individually believe about the matter, rather than anything in the way of fact (myself included).

    Really doesn’t ring true for me, however, based on all of my experience.


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