Saturday, 23 August 2008

PA Consulting - Memory sticks and ID Cards.

Jacqui SmithIt turns out that PA Consulting, the company to blame (according to Jacqui Smith) for the loss of the memory stick containing details of the 84,000 prisoners held in our prisons, are at the heart of the National ID Card scheme. Makes you feel warm all over doesn't it? The company has been paid £100m for their work on ID Cards and they have received over £240m in government contracts in recent years. According to the Telegraph we (that's those of us who pay tax) are paying their consultants £160 per hour to work on the scheme - not bad money if you can get it.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said:
"The public will be alarmed that the Government is happy to entrust their £20bn ID card project to the firm involved in this fiasco, at a cost of millions of pounds to the UK taxpayer. "This will destroy any grain of confidence the public still have in this white elephant and reinforce why it could endanger - rather than strengthen - our security.

"Jacqui Smith cannot continue to abdicate responsibility for this shambles. She must at a bare minimum explain how this failure could happen, when she first knew about it, and what she now intends to do about it. Why did she sit on this information until it was dragged out by the media? When was she intending to tell the public?"
I think it pretty obvious why Jacqui Smith sat on the news of this data loss:

1. This is just another blunder in a long list of data security blunders that she and the government have been responsible for.

2. Would you (as Home Secretary) want the public to know that a company deeply involved in the ID Card scheme has broken security guidelines by downloading sensitive data, only to lose it?

I think we in the general public tend to think it's possible that the ID Card scheme will be scrapped, but it won't, the government are hell bent on pushing this crackpot scheme through. The only way to stop more of our money being wasted on this folly is to get Labour out of power as soon as possible.

Alyson Reeves, PA Consulting's identity management specialist wrote in the Financial Times (18 June 2008):

"The UK National Identity Scheme should not be overlooked. It is coming, and as the UK's 'universal' identity assurance solution, it will become ubiquitous in the next five to 10 years. Don't get left playing catch-up."
The sad thing is that even after losing the prisoner data, PA Consulting will probably keep their ID Card contracts.


Jack Black said...

The £160 hourly rate for consultants is almost certainly an average; some individuals cost considerably more than this. One hopes this episode causes further questions to be asked about the wisdom of using expensive private sector firms to provide routine services such as training and applications support.

Gallimaufry said...

The reason why private sector firms are used to do Civil Service work is that their emplyees are not counted against Departmental staff limits or budgets.

John M Ward said...

First, welcome back!

Now, as far as modern data storage is concerned, there is always the danger that using memory sticks could mean that data can suddenly go in a flash... Any competent organisation would never have data on portable media unless it was absolutely unavoidable, and the it would be thoroughly encrypted.

Even I encrypt my offsite backups (three 80 GB USB Freecom hard drives, two of which are at different offsite locations at any moment) and I employ a non-standard encryption technique, making it even more difficult to crack the protection. My on-site six-generational full backups of all machines are similarly encrypted, and mirrored as well.

Perhaps I should take over from PA Consulting: I clearly have a much better attitude toward protecting personal (and other) information...

Anonymous said...

Only the public sector, those who spend other people's money, not their own, employ companies tying them into contracts so that it is impossible, or hugely expensive, to sack them should they prove to be incompetant. No private business would be so cavalier.

Daily Referendum said...


I really hope the Tories can sort this mess out.

David Gerard said...

It could be worse ... maybe.