Ireland: 80 Unencrypted Government Laptops Lost – Private Information Feared Lost

The Irish Independent has reported on new revelations by the Irish government that 80 unencrypted laptops along with USB sticks and blackberries were either lost or stolen in the last five years.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

5 of these laptops were lost by the Department of Social and Family Affairs alone.

Digital Rights Ireland has responded to the incident. “…it’s essentially a matter of luck that we haven’t had private files compromised on [a large scale],” writes digital Rights Ireland, “We’d suggest you start making some noise. Start by complaining to your local TDs [sic] Let them know that personal privacy is an important issue for you. Ask them why the State has been so careless with our private information that the Data Protection Commissioner has said that he has warned of these risks for years, and has said that the State needs “a wake up call”. Ask them what they plan to do about it. And of course you can ask them why, in light of this carelessness, they should be trusted to bring in data retention.”

Professor Robert Clark took the opportunity to comment on the matter saying that careless breaches in such sensitive information isn’t entirely new to Ireland.

“Privacy and data protection all too often lose out when confronted by pressure for more police powers or greater administrative convenience.” Clark said, “The level of scrutiny by the Oireachtas was negligible. Successive Data Protection Commissioners have complained about this Big Brother philosophy but to little effect.”

While it is unclear as to what was on the laptops, blackberries and USB sticks, it is clear that the fears of a massive personal data breach are very real. Last year, the British government was rocked by controversy over successive losses in personal data including the loss of 25 million identities on two CDs. It is unclear if the data fell into the wrong hands, but it’s hard to ignore an issue involving the identities of nearly half the countries population. Digital rights advocates say that such breaches are all the more reason not to have strict data retention policies.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.



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