MoD data loss worse than feared

The personal details of over 1.7 million individuals who enquired about joining the armed forces were included in the removable hard drive lost by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), it has been revealed.

The revelation came in a written statement to the Commons by armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth. It drastically increases the number of people thought to be affected by the incident.

“This data loss is an absolute scandal and on a far larger scale than previously feared,” said Lib Dem defence spokesman Nick Harvey.

“It is shameful that the minister made the admission in writing and not in person to the House of Commons.”

The Conservatives reacted angrily to the news. Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said: “We now find that this data loss is worse than we first thought. It seems incomprehensible that we are still learning the details of this dreadful incident.”

It was revealed last week that MoD contractor EDS had misplaced the portable hard drive, but early assumptions had been the data related only to serving military personnel.

“The hard drive may, in the worst case, contain details relating to 1.7 million individuals who have enquired about joining the armed forces,” Mr Ainsworth wrote.

“For casual enquiries this will include no more than a name and contact details. But for those who applied to join the forces more extensive personal data may be held.

“In some cases this will include personal information such as next of kin details, passport and national insurance numbers, drivers’ licence and bank details and National Health Service numbers.”

Civil libertarian groups are taking the loss as further evidence of the government’s incompetence when dealing with private data.