Public sector data handling still lacks good governance

The Metropolitan Police were barely out of the news in February. Computerworld UK reports that the force “routinely requests access to Transport for London’s (TfL) Oyster Card database in search of personal information on its users.”

In 2011, the Met made 6,258 requests for data from TfL: most of these were for Oyster card information, with the rest made up of CCTV images and information on staff.

Computerworld UK also reveals that the Met "inadvertently" shared the email addresses of more than a thousand victims of crime with other victims.

“A total of 1,136 emails were sent out in seven batches of between 119 and 198 recipients. The addresses were placed in the wrong box, which meant they were visible to all the other recipients in the batch,” it reports.

To add to its IT troubles, in another story Computerworld UK reports that the Met has had to alert people to a computer virus that impersonates its e-crime unit in an effort to steal money from unsuspecting users.

Several stories report on the Leveson Inquiry, which has been looking into the relationship between the police and the press.

One Financial Times story, relating to the Met’s failure to tell hacking victims that their phones were being hacked into, reports a comment from Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, that the police had a “much too cosy relationship with the press”.

Jay went on to quote Lord Blair, a former Metropolitan Police commissioner, as saying that senior officers maintained the relationship ”in order to enhance their own reputations.”

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Another story in the paper reports that the Met did inform Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, of the scale of hacking at News of the World as far back as autumn 2006.

HMRC has also been the subject of several stories. Both the Financial Times and CFO World report that the Treasury is to close two loopholes that allowed Barclays Bank to avoid paying tax worth £500m.

CFO World carries a story about HMRC’s reform of its structure for large corporate tax settlements, which includes a proposal for a new role of assurance commissioner to scrutinise settlements.

Richard Bacon MP told the publication that, although he welcomed the proposal, he would prefer to see more extensive reform of HMRC’s corporate governance.

Tax break
Computerworld UK, meanwhile, reports that an investigation into border security checks in the UK has found that a pilot last year, which allowed easing of security checks on certain groups or individuals, was not properly analysed “due to failings in a HMRC IT system”.

The IT system owned and operated by HMRC “did not easily lend itself” to producing the data needed by the UK Border Agency, according to the report of the investigation.

HMRC does, however, have some good news for employees: according to Computerworld UK, some employees with work smartphones will be able to claim tax refunds, after HMRC revealed that it now includes the devices in its tax definition of a mobile phone.