Council worker leaves personal details of 5,000 children in a taxi

A FATHER who found a memory stick in a second-hand car was horrified to find it contained confidential details of 5,000 children - including his own daughter.

The memory stick was found by a father as he cleaned his second-hand car, which he bought from a taxi driver last month.

The loss had been reported by an employee of Leeds Council but the authority was assured there was no sensitive information on the stick.

But in fact it contained the names, addresses, dates of birth, ethnicity, and phone numbers of an estimated 5,000 children.

It also stored information about child protection and whether parents claimed state benefits.

Despite strict council rules, none of the confidential details had been encrypted or protected by passwords.

When the finder, who wishes to remain anonymous, plugged the device into his home computer, he was outraged to discover the huge confidential list, which also included his own child.

The man, from Leeds, said: "It's information that should not be on

a memory stick.

"It just worries you - we don't know how long it's been there or whose hands it has been in before we found it. How can we trust Leeds City Council when they do something like this?"

The information on the memory stick appears to relate to places at nurseries across the city.

The device has since been handed in to West Yorkshire Police, who returned it to the council.

A council spokeswoman said staff had been reminded about rules surrounding data security and an urgent inquiry set up regarding the memory stick. She declined to say if anyone had been disciplined.

She said: "We take issues of information security very seriously and are very sorry that this breach has occurred. We have guidance in place which seeks to prevent such incidents occurring including advice on using memory sticks.

"The loss was immediately reported by the employee concerned to their line manager and inquiries were made to recover it. Regrettably it could not be located. At the time, it was understood that no sensitive or confidential data was on this stick, so no further action was taken.

"Unfortunately, once recovered, it became apparent the memory stick did have sensitive information on it that should not have been there.

'We are grateful to the member of the public who found and returned the memory stick."

Leeds East MP George Mudie said the whole area of security surrounding

computerised personal records should be reviewed nationally.

He said: "I am horrified about the potential implications and repercussions of the loss of the data. It demonstrates the inability of authorities to keep private the personal data of ordinary people."

Mr Mudie said: 'The discovery of the memory stick comes as they are going to force a Bill through to encourage data collection and data sharing between every authority, and also the ludicrous identity card scheme.

"The time has come to step back and rethink the whole thing. We are told our private records are going to be safe. How can we believe them? This whole exercise about personal data should be stopped until they can reassure a sceptical public."