"Data losses putting lives at risk in UK"

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London, Oct 29 : A private watchdog in the UK has sent warning signals that the careless handling of personal data by businesses, government departments and public bodies was "putting lives at risk".

In a speech today, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is likely to say that he feared the reports of data breaches were only the tip of the iceberg, with old computers and laptops containing private information being discarded in public places, and staff failing to report losses to their managers, reported the Telegraph.

He will disclose that serving members of the Armed Forces have also been put in danger, while criminals have been able to carry out intimidation and major fraud as a result of "serious and worrying" instances of data mishandling.

He will disclose he has received 277 reports of data breaches in the last year, including 80 relating to the private sector, 75 from within the NHS and other health bodies, 28 by central government, 26 by local authorities and 47 by other public sector bodies.

Thomas will also say that he is investigating into 30 serious data loss cases since the loss of 25 million child benefit records by HM Revenue and Customs a year ago. Besides, he will warn that deaths could occur unless organisations tighten up their practices.

According to the paper, he will say in his speech: "The flow of data breaches and sloppy information handling continues. We have already seen examples where data loss or abuse has led to fake credit card transactions, witnesses at risk of physical harm or intimidation, offenders at risk from vigilantes, fake applications for tax credits, falsified Land Registry records and mortgage fraud. Addresses of service personnel, police and prison officers and battered women have also been exposed. Sometimes lives may be at risk. The number of breaches brought to our attention is serious and worrying."

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