HM Revenue & Customs: I trust you

HM Revenue & Customs are getting a lot of flak for putting the details of 25 million Brits on 2 CDs and losing them in the post. Don’t worry, Revenue & Customs: I still trust you. I just put my Christmas presents wish-list on a CD and posted it off to you. My thinking is that you might circulate it for me: you’re going to get that data out there to anyone who wants to see it, right? If I send it to you, even Santa Claus might eventually get to see it eventually, right?It’s a bizarre story though. There are so many unanswered questions:

Q. Could those two CDs become a double-album Christmas Number 1? The police don’t know where they are, but maybe a DJ is spinning them in a club and getting an underground following as we speak?

Q. Who trusts the mail* with anything other than postcards these days? Putting anything of significant value in the post is like playing Russian Roulette. The recipient might get it, they might not. Take an example: the father of a flatmate of mine at university posted her a frozen rump steak, first class postage, on a Monday morning.

By his reckoning, it would still be frozen when it arrived the next day. However, when a bloody package fell through the letterbox a week later, our immediate reaction was not, “ah-ha, someone has been sent a frozen rump steak that defrosted in transit”, but “ah-ha, someone has kidnapped that other flatmate we haven’t seen since the weekend, and has posted us her finger as proof of identity so we will meet their ransom demands”. Until we opened the package, that is.

* this point is largely irrelevant because the CDs were lost in HMRC’s internal post, not by the Royal Mail, which never loses anything, anyway.

Q. The Revenue says the police say they have no reason to believe the CDs have fallen into criminal hands. But since no one has any idea where they could be, might they not just as well say, “The police tell us they have no reason to believe the CDs have not fallen into criminal hands”?

Q. If you were going to send 25 million names and addresses in the post, wouldn’t you at least send it recorded delivery, where the postie asks for a signature when it is delivered? If they had done that, at least the police could say with full confidence that although they are still lost, they were at least signed for by a Mr. Data Hacker, of Number 3, No Known Address Street, Somewhere on Thames, Cyberspace.

Q. Could the HM Revenue & Customs go into PR? PR companies spend a fortune getting press releases seen by as many people as possible. The Revenue could simply put press releases on 2 CDs, and put them in the post.

Q. Is 2 lost CDs better than one? If both are found by a criminal, that’s very bad. But no worse than if that criminal found all that data on 1 CD. On 2 CDs, they may become separated in the post, and only one of them might be found by a criminal, the other handed in to the police. If all was on one CD, it would either go to a criminal or not. So, which is statistically better, 2 lost CDs or 1? For that matter, if a criminal boards a train at 8.45am with 2 CDs and gets off after 3 stops, but they can only get off at stops with names that end in an ‘n’, like Staunton, or Southampton, are they more or less likely to be wearing a beard by 3.45pm the next day?

Q. Does anyone know of a company called Mr.DataHacker & Sons? I just noticed a debit from my account by that firm, but can’t for the life of me remember buying anything from them…

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