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back to article UK.gov shreds last ID scheme hard drives

The government destroyed the final 500 hard drives that contained the national identity register today. Immigration minister Damian Green turned up for the photo opportunity to demonstrate the government's commitment to trashing the unpopular ID card scheme. He fed some of the drives into a huge crushing machine at RDC in …

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WTF?

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500 drives for 15,000 holders?

Exactly how much data did they store on each person?

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Anonymous Coward

Err...

Maybe it was sized slightly larger than that...

Also, I find 500 to be a rather small number of drives for this sort of system and 100 backup tapes seems very small indeed.

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Good riddance.

"The government said that it will chuck the trashed drives and back up tapes into an "environmentally friendly waste-for-energy" incinerator soon."

Do you think they'ld let me piss on them first?

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@ Norfolk 'n' Goode

"Do you think they'ld let me piss on them first?"

Well said sir! I'll also be standing in that line. I hope it's signposted - 'queue this way to micturate on the fascist wet dream of nu-labour.'

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Waste

What a complete waste. No doubt these 500 drives were enterprise standard installed into a couple of medium-sized storage arrays and probably cost over half a million quid. Rather than chucking this lot away couldn't they just have performed a secure erase and used it for something else? Given that you could probably dump the entire details for 15,000 people into a large USB stick, then trashing these drives proves nothing very much at all.

This just looks like an expensive photo-opportunity for a grandstanding politician.

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M7S
Bronze badge

A necessary step

Government knows it lost the trust of the general public on this one. Whilst it was the last administration that created this mess the current one knows it has to try and regain this trust. We all know that it is technically possible there's a backup or two "just in case", and we've no way of knowing if the disks and tapes shredded are the right ones, but if the disks stayed in use, consipiracy theorists would never stop going on (rightly or wrongly) about how HMG still had the data.

Yes, from a technical point of view it is a meaningless and possibly wasteful gesture, but what else could they really have done? Whilst I like government to be efficient and frugal, sometimes the odd bit of theatre is necessary.

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Adhering to standards

Assuming that the database had correctly been given a pretty high security level (aka business impact level), then using the drives for "something else" would not have been permitted by the relevant HMG standard, IAS5.

Plus, as has been said, it's good PR.

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@M7S

>>"if the disks stayed in use, consipiracy theorists would never stop going on (rightly or wrongly) about how HMG still had the data."

Whereas now, true conspiracy theorists will just assume that the data was coped elsewhere, and/or that the drives shredded weren't the real ones, though true conspiracy theorists wouldn't have volunteered for the scheme anyway.

Plus the real conspiracy theorist will believe that every possible scrap of information about people (or specifically, about *them*) is being stored in countless other places anyway.

And as for the incineration, is throwing stuff made largely of metal (+ glass?) into an incinerator going to do much for the environment, or actually create much heat?

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Anonymous Coward

And...

And what would you have said when it turned out that someone lifted the drives (or even just one of them) from the secure storage area and flogged them on ebay before they were re-used.

If you think it can't happen, just go and have a word with RBS...

Or, perhaps one or two got lost en route to their new home...

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@Steve Jones: Waste

If they have spent half a million quid on 500 drives then they are bigger idiots than I expected. The storage arrays may be more expensive, but I sincerely doubt they were stupid enough to junk them as well. Junking 500 HDDs that probably cost about £100 was probably more cost effective than trying to reuse the damn things.

£50k wasted, but nothing like the millions that New Labour spent setting the ridiculous idea up in the first place. Vent your ire at New Labour rather than the rather more sensible people who trashed the scheme for us.

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Joke

An idea

I think they should have used the heat used for burning up the hard disks to warm up the local swimming baths.

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@AC

>>"And what would you have said when it turned out that someone lifted the drives (or even just one of them) from the secure storage area and flogged them on ebay before they were re-used."

What would be hard about properly wiping them in-situ before taking them anywhere for re-use?

Even if trace data recovery was actually possible on modern drives (seems to be some arguent on that) would anyone buying disks off ebay generally spend the large amounts of money needed to try it?

It's not as if they'd know what was supposed to be on them - an auction for drives "Stolen from the ID card database centre" would probably be noticed.

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Stop

The stick probably exists

I am tending to assume that your proverbial "large USB stick" has already been used. Probably multiple times.

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Anonymous Coward

Next

Ok that's a start, I propose the DNA database and ANPR data next for immediate public destruction.

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@AC

>>"Ok that's a start, I propose the DNA database and ANPR data next for immediate public destruction."

So what's the balance so far between Good and Evil uses of the DNA database?

Some people seem to be worried about a hypothetical totalitarian government getting into power in the future and misusing existing databases, but if such a government did get into power, wouldn't we be pretty much equally fucked whether or not there was an existing database of DNA fingerprints or regular fingerprints or historic vehicle movements?

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Anonymous Coward

@David Wilson

I'm not worried about some future totalitarian government misusing databases .

The politicians we have now have shown more than once that they are willing to abuse any data they can get their hands on.

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@Norfolk 'n' Goode

>>"The politicians we have now have shown more than once that they are willing to abuse any data they can get their hands on."

So please tell how they have abused the DNA database.

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Anonymous Coward

"So please tell how they have abused the DNA database."

If you don't know the answer to your question in the title then you must have been talking out of your arse when you mention evil uses in your earlier post.

"So what's the balance so far between Good and Evil uses of the DNA database?"

Also I can't believe that you are ignorant of the currently publicised abuses of the DNA database like innocents being forcibly tested, minors being placed on the database even innocent ones. Keeping that data for life.

I am sure there have been many more that we will never hear of.

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@Norfolk 'n' Goode

As I'm sure you understand, there's a difference between having a database and taking samples from people.

If people are going to have samples taken in the case of being suspects in a particular crime, or for elimination purposes, that would happen irrespective of how long the information was going to be stored, and even if kept for elimination purposes, likely it would need to be stored for at least some time to avoid having to repeat the collection.

What evidence do you have that the information on the database has been misused by politicians, to justify your claim that politicians are always willing to abuse any data they can get their hands on?

In any case, to the extent there are failures, that doesn't make it a question of either the current setup or no database, but what the best solution is.

It'd clearly be easy to solve the problems of innocent people on the database by modifying the ways data is retained in those cases (the time period, who might be allowed to access it and in what way, etc), but throwing the entire database away as the AC suggested would seem to be a pretty retarded answer to the fact it isn't perfect.

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Joke

ding

Munchkins were allegedly seen dancing round the shredder singing "Ding dong the witch is dead".

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Pint

Which old witch?

Did they throw Jacqui Smith in the shredder too then? If so, drinks are on me!

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Big Brother

Crushed Hard Drives

Probably not the ones with the data, they're currently residing in Thames House. No foil hat icon! Or indeed a black helicopter one. Eric Blair will have to do!

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Black Helicopters

You looking for this?

<<< Yes, that is a black helicopter, honest, and not a well-endowed mosquito.

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Yep that's the one

Must have been in Blue Thunder stealth mode.

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Burning hard drives?

"The government said that it will chuck the trashed drives and back up tapes into an "environmentally friendly waste-for-energy" incinerator soon."

Not sure how flamible hard drives are to burn in an incinerator, surely they are mostly metal so wont exactly burn and to get them to burn you would have to use large amounts of gas to heat the incinerator hot enough so the metal would begin to melt. Surely if they had been securely erased say using blanco or even the free DBAN software then put through an industrial shredder thats enough to render the data impossible to recover?

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But

Once aluminium, for instance, catches light, it's kinda self sustaining in terms of temperature. How do you think you wield railway lines ?

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WTF?

How do you think you wield railway lines ?

With difficulty. They're far too fucking heavy to wave about in a threatening manner.

BTW railway track is made of steel, not aluminium. Unless you're talking about a Hornby 00 layout.

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Coat

Wielding railway lines?

It's bloody hard, especially if a train is coming!

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Anonymous Coward

@Unless you're talking about a Hornby 00 layout.

Or a train with chocolate digestive wheels.?

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Anonymous Coward

@Jim

Yes, the track is steel, but the weld is made by thermite.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminothermic_reaction

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nR6K90cR8Lg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnHR4cMXiyM&feature=related

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Anonymous Coward

Burning hard drives?

I doubt they burnt them in an "environmentally friendly waste-for-energy" incinerator. You have to heat steel to 1600 C before it will ignite, and that doesn't sound like an incineration plant intended to handle enough waste bulk to make generating electricity from it economic.

Damian Green was probably talking out of his arse. Politicians usually do.

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Anonymous Coward

Considering

the government already has all the information held by the ID card scheme (across many other databases) I really doubt it would be worth the effort of switching the drives or having a copy of the data.

As for wiping the drives, anywhere I have worked in the last 10 years has first run blanco over the drive, then degaussed it and finally shredded the drive..

This may seem excessive but for a drive with data intact to accidentally escape into the wild is considerably slimmer than simply passing through a single process, with different staff taking care of each phase (and constant device checks) it makes theft more unlikely.

Even the bloody flagstone drives get shredded

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Stop

Umm

"the government’s commitment to scale back the power of the state and restore civil liberties"

So why do they want to read everyone's email, and know every site they visit then ? Or did he not say that with a straight face ?

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Anonymous Coward

Actually...

They don't want to read everyone's email, they just want to know where the messages start and where they go. That's not to say that you shouldn't be concerned about that (maybe you should, maybe you shouldn't) but they aren't trying to read your email.

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AC@00:59

"They don't want to read everyone's email, they just want to know where the messages start and where they go."

You might like to check the spec on Dettica's hardware for a start and consider how they will confirm that the packets contain what they *claim* to contain.

Deep packet inspection perhaps?

I am of course *completely* convinced that the contents would not be recorded.

I wonder if anyone has realised this means basically recording the entire contents of the BT internet backbone *every* day?

But then to a dedicated data fetishist you can never have *too* much data. As long as they don't have to pay the storage costs of course.

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Anonymous Coward

So?

Of course you can have too much data, in fact the more data you have the harder it is to process, exponentially. The monitoring to go in place is to do tasks akin to monitoring phone calls - which the home secretary has to sign off. No monitoring endpoints is much easier, can be processed quickly and flag up interesting links, which can then be monitored using a proper warrant.

Of course, you need to not be a conspiracy theorist to buy this.

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Big Brother

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Unfortunately, much of this poison is still in the system.

I'm currently asking for 200 quid’s worth of property legal advice from a Cambridge firm of solicitors. They are asking for "two forms of ID - passport or photo drivers licence + proof of address" due to "new legislation". Probably they mean the 2007 money laundering regulations, which (if you read the yards of regulations/guidance) don't apply to 1-off small transactions of less than 15,000 Euros (and why not GB£, I ask?).

We are still being conditioned to respond "of course" when asked to show our papers, and I suspect I will soon be looking for a different law firm – recommendations anyone?

Compliance breeds subjugation, do not comply.

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No ID = no advice

Sorry but we insist that you prove who you are and where you live. I want to be sure that you are indeed the John Smith who wants to make a will, sell or buy a house, get divorced, get access to his children, get probate on his rich dead mother, etc etc.

How would you like it if you walked in ten minutes later to find that some imposter stole your identity and sold your house?

Of course you can always do it all yourself for free. We may be able to dig you out of the brown stuff if you screw up, but only if you provide two forms of id.

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Missed opportunity

I would have invited David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Jacqui Smith and Meg Hillier along to help me feed disks into the crusher, and enjoy their tears.

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Flame

True...

... but the temptation to chuck them in the incinerator with the drives might be too great to resist!

Flames, obviously ...

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Why people demanding a refund have no case

People demanding a refund have no case because the cards were not their property in the first place and the service offered was through a law that has now been abolished.

They'd have a case if the law was still on the books but the government simply refused to acknowledge or administer the scheme. But if the law no longer exists, it's hard to see what transgression could be cited in court.

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That's democratic government for you...

First our duly-elected representatives decide that we absolutely must have an all-embracing database of everyone's vital statistics. So they pass laws and lash out masses of our tax money on buying lots of lovely electronic toys. Then, a short while later, another bunch of duly elected representatives decide that no, the database must not be maintained; so all that taxpayer investment is physically destroyed.

Two things remain invariant throughout all this.

1. The politicians can't make up their mind whether X is indispensable or unthinkable (where X takes on a wide range of values).

2. The politicians don't give a tinker's curse how much of our money they waste.

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Boffin

Environmentally Friendly

"The government said that it will chuck the trashed drives and back up tapes into an "environmentally friendly waste-for-energy" incinerator soon."

If they want to be environmentally friendly, why not recycle the drive components, for the rare earth magnets and other precious metals? Surely incinerating such things is anything but environmentally friendly, given the sort of products they are likely to give off from incineration...

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Big Brother

So what. The data base structures, implementation documents and data fetishist civil servants

are still in place.

And the DWP is buying data on the open market.

*Most* of the people who drove this nonsense are still in place and waiting for the next change of government/terrorist-incident/massive-fraud/elected-demagogue-leader so they can come out of the wood work and offer their oh-so-simple "solution"

A database has been destroyed. Good.

But not the idea of *having* such a database, and a few more besides.

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ID cards OK, database ridiculous

I thought the idea of having a cheaper option than a full passport is very good. Here in NL you can get an identity card (valid for the EU + whole slew of other European countries and Turkey) at about half the price of a full passport.

It was a major Labour fail that wanted this stupid database. For regular consumers the ID card would have been a great option for European travel. A credit card sized card is much more convenient than a full passport.

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Big Brother

@iMark

UK subjects *might* have gone along with the ID card, although there is a common law tradition in the UK (absent from many other countries in Europe) that people do not *need* a government supplied card/piece of plastic/tattoo to tell *other* people who the are.

In the UK it was *never* about the card.

It was the building of a cradle-to-grave record of your *entire* life. This is what Tony Blair, a number of senior civil servants and a whole bunch of government con-tractors wanted.

BTW A database with (from the results of other data problems bought to light in a child support claim) *no* (let me just repeat that for the benefit of non UK readers) *NO* audit trail to know whose been reading/deleting/amending/emailing-their-friend-in-a-private-detective-agency your file.

As for the price of passports. In the UK the Passport Office took on responseability for the ID card programme and magically the cost of UK passport started rising, just at the times the costs started rising on the scheme (which the Labor government liked to described as "self financing")

A quote that Benjamin Franklin became the sig for a lot of US posters following 9/11. I paraphrase.

"Those people who give up basic freedoms for security deserve neither security nor freedom"

As true today as a decade ago.

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Alert

A warning from Open Democracy - not just Scotland!

"In this two-part exposé, Kenneth Roy, editor of the Scottish Review, reveals the true nature of the long-awaited 'privacy principles' and the back-door introduction of a compulsory ID scheme for Scotland. In both cases, it is the liberties of children that are first on the line. In addition to the intrinsic importance of what happens in Scotland, there are two reasons why everyone across the UK should be alert to warnings of this kind. OurKingdom and openDemocracy played a big role in the 2009 Convention on Modern Liberty. This was a"wake up call" about the dangers of the database state. The evidence it brought together shows that there is a driving state-culture pushing for the penetration of information on citizens and central control of that information, while people are far too complacent and trusting about what this process is, which is being developed with minimal publicity. This is the first reason. Second, from the Poll Tax to the Scottish Consitutional Convention, in both bad ways and good, what happens in Scotland today can impact on what happens in London tomorrow. This is a warning!

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/kenneth-roy/scotlands-secret-files-two-part-expose-of-scottish-database-state

For the rest of Kenneth's excellant articles and other recent coverage, please visit this forum thread:

http://www.home-education.biz/forum/general-discussion/12948-big-brother-scotland.html

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@ David WIlson

For one thing, retaining the DNA of an innocent person, even if charged with a "serious offence", for 3 years - rather than the current term - is still too long, by 3 years.

Simple enough concept.

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@Sam

>>"For one thing, retaining the DNA of an innocent person, even if charged with a "serious offence", for 3 years - rather than the current term - is still too long, by 3 years"

I ask again - for all the people who think government /always/ abuses /all/ data, how are they supposed to have abused the DNA data that was held?

That's a quite different issue to whether people like the idea of data being held.

On an emotional level, I don't like the thought of my data being held, but I'd still try and step back and try to look at existing benefit vs harm.

Even if I don't like the idea of my data being held, I would like the idea of guilty people being convicted of serious offences, so there's a conflict there.

Since I can't expect to be treated differently to anyone else, it seems to be a matter of striking a balance when coming to an opinion.

It's not a case of some inviolable principle removing any need to think.

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@Sam

On a practical point of view, if someone did have DNA taken in an investigation of a crime, depending on the crime, isn't it going to need to be kept for at least some time?

In some investigations, if there may well be evidence yet to find, it'd seem a bit daft to delete information and then have to go and get more samples.

At what point is an investigation 'closed' enough for samples to be deleted?

I can see that in a case where there's been mass screening for elimination purposes, such as trying to find a match with evidence from an apparent stranger-murder, people might conclude that data could be wiped pretty much straight away, especially if any random person tested had a very small chance of being involved (though even then, that could make it less of a risk for someone to get a Pitchfork-type stand-in, since the evidence that could potentially convict the stand-in would end up being rapidly deleted).

But in a case where someone was a potential suspect, even with a 'delete when no longer useful' policy, wouldn't people *still* have to trust the police to decide when they think the odds were very low of evidence arising that could lead to a DNA match with a particular person?

Generally, I'd have thought that even with a 'delete when not useful' policy, it's likely that data would be kept for a minimum of a few months even if only to allow for evidence collection and testing to be done.

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