The Foreign and Commenwealth office is responsible for the interests and security of British people across the world, but is not immune to data protection wobbles.
Having initially refused our Freedom of Information Request ont the grounds of national security, the FCO has now admitted thirteen incidents where data was lost over the past three years.
Information lost included passport applications, payroll details, video interviews and medical records. One incident in Madrid involveda copy of a passport application and corresponding email blow out of an open window while in Caracass a staff laptop was stolen from a car. You can see the full list here.
In an international, disparate organisation there are clearly great challenges with protecting information. Yet the incidents seen by the FCO are in several ways similar to those exposed in our research on local authority data loss, highlighting the need for a more fundamental reassement of how personal information is handled by organisations.
Furthermore, these problems can only be addressed if departments come clean on the incidents and the FCO’s initial refusal further demonstrates the current weakness of the UK’s data protection regime. Only two incidents were reported to the Information Commissioner’s office.