There is a scandal in the UK Department of Health’s IT management. The BBC reports it thus:
The Department of Health has apologised for an apparent security lapse which allowed the personal details of junior doctors to be accessed online.
Channel 4 News reported that a breach on the NHS Medical Training Application Service website allowed public access for at least eight hours. The department said the details had only been available briefly, and only to people making employment checks.
Phone numbers, addresses, previous convictions and sexual orientation were among details available since at least 0900 BST, it reported. The Department of Health was alerted at 1635 BST and the breach closed at 1705 BST.
The opposition spokesmen were on it straightway, pointing out that if this could happen with temporary information on 7,000 junior doctors, what hope was there for the medical records of the entire country intended be held on the NHS Connecting for Health system, or all those personal details being sought out for the NIR, to remain secure?
All very well and good. They won’t be. And we should thank Andrew Lansley MP for taking the opportunity to point it out. But I cannot help feeling let down by the response of media and politicians. “Insecure!” they bleat.
Nowhere, yet, have I heard or read in the mainstream discussion of this incident what seems to me the most screamingly obvious and fundamental questions. What business is it of the DoH to supervise the selection of individual doctors for individual hospital placements at all? And what the hell is it doing collecting information about doctors’ religions, sexual preferences and criminal records in the first place? If you have committed a crime the nature of which debars you from being a doctor, then you’re no longer a doctor, so you should not be on the list. If you have not then your crimes are as irrelevant as your religion or your sexuality, and they should not be. No doubt they were also as carefully classified as to race and ethnic origin as would satisfy apartheid authorities re-equipped with modern computers.
When are people going to rebel against the presumption that government may pigeonhole as it pleases, and anything a bureaucrat with a checklist asks he is entitled to know?
Unless you have a damn good reason, I decide what I’ll tell you about myself based on the nature of our relationship. Information is power. Information is intimacy. Forced disclosure of private information is data-rape.
Those 7,000 young doctors were only incidentally abused by the feeble security. They were deliberately data-raped by the Department of Health first.