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UK Government Staff Caught Snooping On Citizen Data 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader writes "More than 1,000 UK government staff have been caught snooping on citizen data — including criminal records, social security, and medical records. From the article: 'The U.K. government is haemorrhaging data — private and confidential citizen data — from medical records to social security details, and even criminal records, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests. Just shy of 1,000 civil servants working at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), were disciplined for accessing personal social security records. The Department for Health (DoH), which operates the U.K.’s National Health Service and more importantly all U.K. medical records, saw more than 150 breaches occur over a 13-month period.'"
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UK Government Staff Caught Snooping On Citizen Data

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  • Shocker (Score:5, Insightful)

    by trout007 (975317) on Friday May 18, 2012 @02:15AM (#40038527)

    Give someone access to people's private information and it will be abused. Here I'm giving you this box that contains pure awesomeness. Please don't open it.

  • by oobayly (1056050) on Friday May 18, 2012 @02:39AM (#40038641)

    Just shy of 1,000 civil servants ... were disciplined ...

    WTF, how about sacking these people, they clearly can't be trusted in their position. Better still, make it a criminal offence (if it isn't already) and charge them.

    I worked for the Ordnance Survey in Southampton after Uni. During training we were shown examples of where people had altered maps (someone wrote "HI" in land tiles in the North Sea, and a building was labled "Kate's cradle of filth"). It was explained to us that all work was logged. If caught we would be sacked. If we'd already left, we'd be chased up under the Official Secrets Act.

    Whether it was all a threat, I don't know. But I certainly didn't risk finding out. Neither did any of my friends.

  • Nothing to fear... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yotto (590067) on Friday May 18, 2012 @02:43AM (#40038657) Homepage

    These people, though, were doing nothing wrong so they have nothing to fear from these unelected civil servants poking through their personal information, right?
     
    ...right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @03:02AM (#40038717)

    TFA:

    The penalties for a criminal offence go up to £5,000 ($7,900) in a lower magistrates court, or an unlimited fine in a higher Crown court. Some British politicians even called for some extreme data breaches to result in prison sentences — something dismissed by other parliamentary committee members. Rarely does the fine rise to five-figures, let alone six. Only recently, one Scottish local authority was fined £140,000 ($220,000) for five separate data breaches — the highest fine imposed by the courts to date.

    When you fine the government, they just increase taxes. We need some personal accountability here.

  • by Coisiche (2000870) on Friday May 18, 2012 @03:11AM (#40038773)

    The FOI request revealled the number of civil servants who had done it but private enterprise is not subject to that act. The same thing will go on but it will never be publicised.

    And I'm not going to buy any arguments that private enterprise security procedures would prevent it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2012 @03:27AM (#40038853)

    These are disciplinary actions, not administrative errors. Verbal ticking offs don't get listed. So they'll all real breaches.

    “unauthorised disclosures of official, sensitive, private and/or personal information”,
    I wonder how many of these are civil servants handing data over to Murdoch's newspapers & TV interests, given we know his newspapers even hacked telephones, buying info from civil servants about celebrities and politicians seems extremely likely. I wouldn't be surprised if a large percentage of those leaks were to Murdochs lot.

    But the big revelation is that there are 200,000 civil servants approved to access the databases. That's an insane number! What did they expect, 200,000 possible leak points, the system is designed to leak private data like a sieve.
    Most likely these are only the leaks that CAN BE CLEARLY IDENTIFIED as leaks. I think that's the TIP OF THE ICEBERG, since most of the data leakers would NEVER GET CAUGHT.

  • by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Friday May 18, 2012 @03:49AM (#40038943) Homepage

    This is the public sector we're talking about, you can't just fire people for gross misconduct, that would be discriminating against people who violate your policies.

    I have personal experience of this, contracting for an NHS trust where one of the people in my team abused their access to snoop through peoples' emails, documents & web logs to try and find information that they could use to blackmail them into giving them perks & preferential treatment. We caught it within a couple of days and had witnesses and audit logs showing what they'd been doing (they weren't too bright when it came to covering their tracks) and handed the whole lot over to HR.

    It took nearly 3 months before they even suspended him; almost 2 years later they had botched everything so badly that they had to pay this person off to leave quietly and not take them to an employment tribunal.

    That anyone ever gets fired from a public sector role without having broken some pretty major laws is nothing short of a miracle.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday May 18, 2012 @04:11AM (#40039029) Journal

    Many decades ago I read that book "1984", I have to admit that I were scared shitless at the thought of the all-knowing big brothers controlling every single bit of my life.

    But at that time, - decades ago, - even the worst government (East Germany, North Korea, China, Russia, to name just a few) just couldn't have the mean to know everything about every single citizen under their control

    Oh yes, those bastard governments employed a lot of spooks and collected volumes of data, but determined citizens always found ways to defeat even the most draconian measure

    No more

    With the advent of computers and high speed network, not only they (the governments) get to collect all types of data, they can data-mine the data so much so that they can get to understand us more than we understand ourselves

    We might not know where we might go, or what we might do, tomorrow, for example - by simply referencing our daily/weekly/monthly routines, our health data, our financial data, the people that we are in contact with, etc, - the government might be able to predict, with a certain degree of accuracy, what we might do, where we might go, a few days from now

    This is scary !!

    Way more scary than the scenario outlined in "1984"

  • Re:ugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday May 18, 2012 @05:46AM (#40039375) Journal
    But it would have to be taken away with the consent of the electorate. I suspect a speech by the queen about why she refused to sign RIPA would have resulted in a lot of MPs looking for a new career...
  • by tomtomtom (580791) on Friday May 18, 2012 @06:15AM (#40039485)
    One might posit that weak politicians (of all parties) who are unable to stand up to civil servants are a bigger part of the problem. Somehow the skills that seem to be required to get elected (and, as importantly, selected by a party to stand for a seat) just don't seem to include this skill set.
  • Re:ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goose In Orbit (199293) on Friday May 18, 2012 @06:56AM (#40039647)

    US: Jump!
    UK: How high?

    That's how "special" the relationship is...

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