The UK’s Cabinet Office has issued its final report on data handling procedures across government. There has been a great deal of press coverage of many instances of missing discs, laptops and personal data. While it is important not to excuse such lapses, it is equally important to recognize that the public sector has begun a process of improving procedures and best practice in this area. It has only been within the last five years that governments have made concerted moves toward encouraging more data sharing, shared services, and the reuse of public data. Academics might have done more to anticipate and address the potential for the loss of personal data during this transition in data handling practices. Moreover, academic institutions should learn lessons from these incidents to ensure that its own moves toward data sharing and open access do not compromise commitments to ensure against the unauthorized disclosure of personal data.
The Cabinet Office’s report is available at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/reports/data_handling.aspx