Friday 28 May 2010

Datagate III - An Ongoing HMRC Farce

HMRC seems to be developing an addiction to sharing people's private financial details with the wider world.

Not content with the Datagate fiasco of 2007, when a database containing 25 million child benefit records went missing, HMRC have sent by the post the private financial details of up to 50,000 people who claim tax credits to other claimants.

Claimants were sent their annual tax credit award notice, coupled with personal details of other claimants (eg earnings, bank sort codes and the last four digits of the bank account number of other claimants).

HMRC claim that this was a printing error.

By "printing error" do they actually mean IT error?

HMRC also claim that the details mistakenly sent out cannot be used to commit id theft.

This of course is bollocks, any extra details about a person's bank or financial status can make a fraudster's task just a little bit easier.

It seems that, despite numerous warnings and cock ups, HMRC still don't "get" the concept of data security.

I guarantee that the HMRC "investigation" into this will finger some junior member of staff as the official scapegoat.

Does anyone actually trust HMRC anymore with their private data?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. The problem with HMRC compared to other data keepers, is that we are forced to supply them with our data.

    If a private company had such a bad record, they would go out of business very quickly because people would not trust them and they would be prosecuted and hit with fines.
    HMRC should not be fined as we are in effect fining ourselves as they are publically funded as would be the CPS and courts.

    I am sure some woman (It's always a woman) will eventually appear in the media and mah nah mah nah about lessons being learned and boxes being ticked etc etc but, it is already too late; the damage has been done.....I would be very angry if my neighbours had received details about my income etc.....As Ken says in his Blue Blog....HMRC need to get a grip!!!

  2. 28 May 2010 10:55

    The problem with HMRC compared to other data keepers, is that we are forced to supply them with our data.

    Can you explain this a bit more, who forced HMRC to send peoples details to the wrong people?

    I agree with you on the subject of fines. I feel a more appropriate penalty would be the removal of the people running the department.

  3. This is not the first time this year that personal details have been sent to the wrong recipients. The same thing happened in January with Child Benefit letters. It sounds like the same "error" has happened again. As to disciplining some lowly worker being punished for this, it would appear that Tonk's comment about some woman appearing in the media is the likely outcome. One of my colleagues is facing discipline for accidentally sending one email to a fellow worker from his home computer. Do the maths, one error as opposed to 50,000? Double Standards or what?

  4. Anon;

    We, as citizens are forced to supply HMRC with all our personal details on pain of prosecution should we refuse......I didn't think my post was ambiguous, but clearly it was......As far as I'm aware, no one forces HMRC to supply everyones details to other people however, that might explain some of the recent cock-ups if they were;-)

    I hope this clarifies my post for you.

  5. hmrc are the only real menace left in society after the downfall of their Emperor - Gordon Brown. I am watching and waiting with interest to see what the new government will do them.

    I know that torture is out of the question, but stripping away some of their powers would be a good start along with employing some competent management who actually manage rather than dictate to their employees and taxpayers.

    Gang of little Hitlers and thugs that they are!

  6. Tonk, I posted at 11:11.

    Your post was not ambiguous it was me. I suffered a connection error between my eyes and brain.

  7. 28 May 2010 12:52

    You may be in for a long wait. So long as HMRC is bringing money in there will be no witch hunt even with all the cock ups.

  8. I do not see why HMRC should not be fined - but only if the fine is paid out of the Directors' bonus pot

  9. Re comment: I do not see why HMRC should not be fined - but only if the fine is paid out of the Directors' bonus pot

    the Directors are given bonuses to screw people's live up. There are no bonuses for following the rules.

    Something to do with a box and thinking.

  10. What I laugh about (obviously this episode is in no way funny) is when people call the CC's and fail on security for whatever reason, and then kick off that you won't access the record. People seem a hell of a lot less concerned with data security then I can tell you.

  11. I worked at HMRC, the security is lamentable. Cleaners standing in for Security Guards at reception and being allowed to work unescorted. "Grab a few uncollected pages from the printers, girls, have a few NINOs on us!"

    EVERY YEAR batches of personal data is sent to incorrect addresses, and the poor buggers who have to deal with the angry taxpayer (I refuse to use the word "customer") earns around £16,000. Put Linda Maslen on the phones"! (Oh I forgot - she already did that ha ha).

    I accidentally used the word "customer" to a taxpayer once - he was aghast. "Customer? You called me a ****ing customer!?" He paused and said - "Oh, I get it. You mean like Dick Turpin's customers?". We had a good laugh about the idiots who decided to spin the word "taxpayer". Still - maybe Dave will encourage middle and senior managers to STOP SPINNING.

  12. just remember it was a private company hired by hmrc who printed and sent this info out so whilst hmrc are ultimately to blame the private sector are just as uselss

  13. As an ex employee I agree about the impact of Private Sector involvement both with those supplying services through Contracts and also with those recruited as Seniore Management for their 'expertise'. I would like to see a comparison between the arrival of these external 'wizz kids' and their massive salaries (Varney, Lamey to name bit two) and both
    a) public assessment of performance, and
    b) staff satisfaction.
    both have plumeted.
    Similarly large scale IT Contracts and the Mapeley deal have been major disasters.

    Go on the HMRC site and look at the number of Board members (some earn more than £250,000 !!!), and at the incredible number of working groups/committees they have. it is ridiculous. And most of these groups have not posted minutes of their meetings for more than six months - the web site is so out of date in these areas.

    At the same time just as in Government Civil Service standards have gone out of the window. How mmany business lunches at top restaurants did the Board of IR attend over the last five or six years? I don't know but it is probably in the 100's - i bet the Chairman in 1980 hardly attended one outside of Official premises. The Board eats cake while the poor coal face workers eat ****. Time for revolution. Heads could role soon.

  14. "just remember it was a private company hired by hmrc who printed and sent this info out so whilst hmrc are ultimately to blame the private sector are just as uselss"

    Absolutely spot on.

    HMRC outsources this sort of work to private companies who print and despatch the items to taxpayers.

    As part of the contract between HMRC and the private companies, there is an expectation that quality control checks will be in place.

    All it takes is for one person supervising a machine to not notice that a mechanical issue has caused the paperwork to become unsynchronised (even though such checks are expected of them) and we suddenly have an issue like this.

    I think, Ken, that you've got it wrong on this occasion. Whilst it's obviously a real problem and a solution will need to be found, it's disingenuous to state that HMRC are to blame.

    A private company has buggered this up, but HMRC will have to carry the can.

  15. It really depends on how the data is supplied to the private company.

    If HMRC create the letters in electronic form and send them to the printers to be printed and posted out then HMRC are at fault. If HMRC send data files to the private company and that company processes the data files to produce the letters then the company is at fault.

    While other companies may be at fault HMRC is responsible for the security of the data and once again has failed.