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ID database snooped for celebrities' secrets

Shape of things to come
Wed Jun 03 2009, 14:17

A GLASGOW council worker was sacked and another resigned after they were caught snooping into the core database of the Government's Identity Card scheme.

The two Glasgow staff were caught snooping on people in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Customer Information Systems (CIS) database, which includes among its 85 million records the personal details about everyone in the UK, and which the Identity and Passport Service plans to use as the foundation of the national ID scheme.

"A member of staff tried to access stuff about famous figures," said a spokesman for Glasgow City Council. He said the DWP alerted the council about the breach. He refused to name the celebrity or say how the council dealt with the matter.

The INQ has learned, however, that the staffer caught looking up personal data belonging to celebrities was sacked.

The DWP warned councils in January that if they didn't bring prosecutions against staff who snooped in the CIS, it might seek to prosecute them itself. Between 2006 and 2009, staff at 30 local authorities were caught with their fingers in the CIS.

Another Glasgow staffer who was caught looking at personal data belonging to "someone they knew" resigned before disciplinary steps could be taken.

"In both cases, neither works at the council any more," said the Glasgow spokesman. "It's potentially a matter for prosecution and if that's something the DWP wants to look at, we take this very seriously."

Some offending councils said they decided not to prosecute staff caught snooping after consulting the DWP. A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "It is for local authorities to consider appropriate action, including legal action."

"The small number of incidents shows that the CIS security system is working," he added.

The DWP claims it uses automatic measures and sample checks to help spot unauthorised accesses to the database. [How reassuring - Ed] µ



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