by Kim Thomas

Public sector data handling still lacks good governance

Mar 04, 20126 mins
IT LeadershipIT StrategySecurity Software

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.”

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 allowedBarclays 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.

“Previously, HMRC said that smartphones were excluded from tax exemption because…they were not primarily designed to make or receive voice calls,” the publication says.

Transport hitches Transport for London (TfL) is busy getting ready for the expected wave of visitors to the city during the Olympics.

Dismissing fears of a tube strike, TfL has launched a campaign to persuade commuters to adjust their travel habits during the Olympics.

“About three million extra journeys are expected on the underground during the busiest days of the games and TfL is hoping to reduce the demand on the tube during rush hour periods,” the FT says.

There is some scepticism, however.

In a separate story, the paper reports that Sir David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail, has warned that there will be transport failures during the Games.

“There is going to be track circuit failure, there will be overhead line breakages, there will be cable theft,” he told the paper.

Despite the gloomy predictions, there is some encouraging news for London’s commuters.

CIO UK reports that TfL has launched a live traffic website, “allowing drivers in the capital to access real-time information about traffic hotspots and helping them to avoid congestion.”

The website,, “provides access to a network of 170 ‘jam cams’, as well as information on incidents that may affect drivers’ journeys.”

If you can’t get where you’re going by car or train, there’s always the bus.

TfL has just introduced its new busto replace the unpopular bendy buses, the FT reports.

The new buses meet TfL’s targets for low emissions, emitting 640g of carbon per km and 3.96g of oxides of nitrogen.

This was achieved “through engineering and low-weight construction for fuel-efficiency by the bus-maker Wrightbus,” the paper says.

Stafford warning The failure of councils to safeguard data properly was highlighted in Computerworld UK, which reports that five councils have been given warnings by the Information Commissioner over Data Protection Act breaches that led to the disclosure of personal information.

Staffordshire County Council was issued with an enforcement noticeover its mishandling of a subject access request.

There’s some heartening news for Essex County Council employees, according to Computerworld UK, which reports that the council is planning to install a new network, at a cost of between £240m and £360m, to enable its staff to work flexibly.

The new network will improve the council’s corporate network and internet speeds, allowing it to support unified communication tools, such as instant messaging and video-conferencing.

More cheer from the Isle of Man, where, CIO UK reports, the council has completed its roll-out of a private cloud service with Unisys that will save it up to £540,000 a year in operating costs.

The council’s CTO Peter Clarke told CIO that the infrastructure will dramatically shorten the time taken to update user systems.

Downtime to update 50 applications on government systems, for example, has been reduced from eight hours to three minutes.

The City of London Corporation’s efforts to move Occupy protestors from outside St Paul’s have finally come to an end, the FT reports.

Although the Corporation had won court backing, the protestors refused to move voluntarily, and were eventually evicted by bailiffs backed by riot police.

Pic: El Browncc2.0