In The Lost And Found (Honky Bach)

by Quinn

A quick word about what is – at the time of writing – the Government’s latest utter balls up; which is to say the personal and banking details of all the recipients of Child Benefit getting lost in the post. It goes without saying that this business highlights some really lamentable security arrangements over at HMRC, but as just about everybody else already has said it there is little point in me piling in and echoing the point. But beyond the obvious I am interested in the statements made by the media and opposition MPs saying that those whose details have been lost are now living in the shadow of a fear of something scary and a wee bit fraudy; because as I am one of the 25 million involved I can say for sure that I’m certainly not that bothered.

Why? Simply because we have all given out our personal details to countless organisations in our time, and whenever we do so we increase the possibility that this data can fall into the hands of unscrupulous people and be used fraudulently. In one of my previous jobs I had everyday access to name and address details, dates of birth, bank account and credit card numbers and all manner of other personal information that our 8 million customers had entrusted to us. While I didn’t have the technical know how to download the entire contents of this database, and while trawling through the system actively searching for personal details could have left an incriminating audit trail, it would still have been child’s play to copy down personal information as and when I accessed it for a legitimate purpose, if I had so wished. I wouldn’t have been able to get 25 million records in a single shot, but I could easily have copied down twenty-odd a day which would have been quite enough to be going along with.

As such I feel that if my financial security has been further compromised by this latest breach I think it is only by a negligible amount; which doesn’t make it alright of course, or mean it doesn’t matter, but it does perhaps put things in perspective. If anything I feel a certain safety in numbers; were I to find out that mine were just one out of ten or so sets of banking details that had gone missing then perhaps I would now be checking my statements for suspiciously large payments to Mercedes Benz and British Airways and look into changing my account number. As it is, the fact that I am just one lost soul in a sea of millions of others makes it seem all the more unlikely that I will fall foul of some specific nefarious deception (he says, not so much tempting fate as tweaking its nose.)

Whenever we hand over our personal information the chances are that we are giving at least one person the opportunity to misuse it. A belief in most people’s inherent honesty, and the fact that when volunteering our details we usually benefit by receiving a good or service in exchange, makes it seem worth our while. Which brings me, somewhat inevitably, to the matter of ID cards. This latest fiasco appears to have just confirmed most people in their pre-existing view about the proposed scheme and the database associated with it, and I am no different; those in favour say that ID cards will protect against identity fraud, while those agin point out that we cannot trust our Government to keep this data safe in the first place. That latter view is the one I share and which is surely the right one; because whether it is mislaid through human error, compromised by poor security systems or quite legitimately accessed by Government employees just doing their job, there is nothing I can see to stop the information on a national database from potentially falling into the hands of the criminally minded. When we provide our bank details to a private company we only do so if we believe there is a good reason to; as the Government has yet to offer anything that bears even a passing resemblance to a good reason for collating all our disparate data into a convenient one-stop shop for the fraudster, for the time being they can fuck right off.