Friday, April 27, 2007

UK health agency erroneously publishes doctors' personal details online

The body responsible for recruitment into Britain's National Health Service, the NHS Medical Training Application Service or MTAS, has mistakenly published the confidential personal details of junior doctors on its website.

The breach of security was revealed by Channel 4, who report on their website: "This is astonishing. Not only can we see what they wrote in their applications; their addresses; their phone numbers; who their referees are. We can also see if there were white, heterosexual, gay Asian, Christian, Jewish or Hindu, and we can also see if they have got police records and what the crime was."

The incident was widely reported in the UK (see websites of the BBC here and here, as well as the Guardian and the Times), and it is likely to add further to the troubles of a government keen to convince its citizens that both the planned ID card and patients' medical records databases will be safe.

For anyone interested in the political science perspective on the issue of why the UK government has so much trouble with IT systems, I recommend my colleague Helen Margetts' work, and especially her new co-authored book on "Digital Era Governance".

Update: Channel 4 reports that there was a further security problem with doctors' personal data. As of writing this, the MTAS website is still offline "due to planned essential maintenance work"...

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