There is one positive side to the revelation that my bank account details, along with those of millions of other parents, are at large on a missing computer disk that Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs sent by post to the National Audit Office. We can all enjoy the pleasure of watching the government squirm.
Talk about being hoist with your own petard: can this really be the same government that forces businesses to register with the information commissioner if they want to keep personal information about customers on a computer system – and which threatens them with a £5,000 fine if they fail to observe the pernickety detail of the Data Protection Act?
On the one hand you have obsessive bureaucratic processes that are supposed to be followed by every business – from banks to a one-man mail order company – and on the other you have a complete absence of common sense. In fact, I am not entirely sure the two things are not unrelated: bury people beneath reams of dogmatic regulations and they swiftly lose their capacity to think.
I suspect HMRC is not alone in its ham-fisted handling of data. Leaks become inevitable when the government collects so much of the stuff. The construction of databases has become a vast public sector industry, funded out of fees charged to those required to fill out forms. Much of this data collection is pointless.