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John's Jottings for December 2007

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

You can trust me on this!

So says Rose Tyler's dad Pete in Doctor Who, when his self-confessed silly ideas actually worked out on a parallel Earth.

Now, our national Government want us all to trust them with our most personal infomation, including so-called biometric data, for their Identity Card scheme. This keeps raising its head, despite a strong distrust of the proposals that have been put forward, yet it has come to light that there have been a number of losses of data and computers from Government Departments—most notably Revenue and Customs which has had 41 laptop computers stolen during the last year alone, we are told.

With the latest revelation that disks containing the names, addresses and bank account details of no fewer than 25 million residents of this country—almost half the entire population, and including millions of children—have gone missing, we now know with absolute certainty that the Identity Card national database must be assumed to be non-viable. It is just too risky.

The Minister blamed old computer systems and procedures not being followed for the data being sent out at all (and it wasn't even encrypted!) but no system should ever have been put in to handle this extent of sensitive information without (for example) making it impossible for anyone below a very senior grade of official to extract this amount of data, and it should have been automatically encrypted—not merely password protected, which at least was done.

Interestingly, when I was the entire IT Support Team for the DTI's London and South-East regional office structure (at six locations), I took far better precautions about protecting the data held in our offices and on our computer servers (as they are called). I wonder what has happened since I left, eleven years ago...?

Here at home, I operate an extensive backup régime for all my own data, including off-site storage. These neat little 80 Gigabyte hard drives fit in a pocket, and I have three of them. At any moment, one will be here being updated, and the others are stored at two secure locations not too far away. All the contents are encrypted, naturally! As I use an uncommon system that will not be known to most people, this would further frsutrate anyone who by some remote chance managed to get hold of one of these backup drives.

When it is time to exchange the latest for the oldest, I take this personally—no post or courier for me. It is never out of my possession until it arrives at the destination, and the same works in reverse when I bring the old backup back here. Oh, and my home is exceptionally secure as well!

Pete Tyler Thus I take this whole business of protecting data very seriously indeed, and always have done.

Unlike with Central Government these days, any information you provide to me (as our ward residents sometimes need to do) will be kept very safely, and "you can trust me on this!"


Next time: That Was The Year, That Was!