BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 7 December 2007, 02:04 GMT
Better data protection 'required'
Computer discs
Two discs containing the details of 25 million people remain lost
The government needs to ensure greater protection for people's personal information, a think-tank has said.

A report by Demos warns that people are losing control of their private data and are not sufficiently aware of how many bodies hold their information.

It wants to see banks offering an insurance-type "no-claims" bonus for those who protect their identity.

The report comes less than a month after HM Revenue and Customs lost discs containing 25 million people's details.

'Coherent strategy'

The Demos report, entitled FYI: The New Politics of Personal Information, says people need to be able to trust the government and companies which hold their personal details.

Its time for a political information revolution that gives the power and accountability back to the people
Peter Bradwell
Demos report co-author

"The government must urgently develop a more coherent strategy around the way personal information is held and used," the report says.

It adds: "Government departments should have a responsibility to tell individuals how their information is used and how that affects them."

Demos recommends a stronger role for the Information Commissioner's Office, with new powers to audit any organisation holding personal information.

It also says plans for ID cards must have "belated public engagement" or the scheme should be "abandoned".

Missing discs

One of the report's authors, Peter Bradwell, said: "People want convenience and personalised public services, but now the power is all in the hands of companies and government."

He added: "Its time for a political information revolution that gives the power and accountability back to the people."

HM Revenue and Customs sent two discs containing the entire child benefit database, unregistered and unencrypted, to the National Audit Office by courier in October - but they did not arrive.

The government has apologised and said there was no evidence the discs had fallen into the wrong hands.

But millions of families have been told to be on alert for fraudsters using their details, stored on the discs, which include bank details, National Insurance numbers and children's names, addresses and dates of birth.

Police are still looking for the discs.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific