MP expenses data up for sale

The latest high-profile data exposure story comes from the mother of all parliaments as part of an ongoing furore about inappropriate expense claims by Members of Parliament.

According to the BBC, details of expenses claims of all 650 or so MPs from all parties are available for a sum of around £300000. There is an expectation that some of the more embarrassing claims will find their way into the papers over the coming weeks - although it is hard to imagine anything more embarrassing than the weekend's revelations about the Home Secretary's claims.

The breach has privacy implications. Parliament itself plans to publish the information some time this Summer as part of a drive towards more openness. However, it cannot do so until about a million receipts have been reviewed for data privacy purposes, and the incident might also represent a breach of the Official Secrets Act. Whoever is trying to sell the data evidently has no qualms about the privacy implications. Electronic copies of the receipts are being offered in redacted and unredacted form.

This story illustrates how seemingly trivial information can have extraordinary value and significant privacy implications. We have customers who seal payslips and other HR information, but it has never occurred to me that expense receipts represent a significant risk.

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