British Government Apologizes for Data Mishap

Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to reassure Britons their personal details were safe Wednesday after the one of the biggest security breaches in the country's history left millions of people exposed to identity theft and bank fraud. Two computer disks that went missing while being sent from one government department to another contained names, addresses, birth dates, national insurance numbers and - in some cases - banking details for 25 million people, nearly half the country's population. The disks were password protected but the information on them was not encrypted, officials said.

"I profoundly regret and apologize for the inconvenience and worries that have been caused to millions of families that receive child benefits," Brown told the House of Commons. "We have a duty to do everything that we can to protect the public." Brown said he had asked security experts to work with government departments to check their procedures. He said the information commissioner also would be given the power to carry out spot checks on government departments. The Prime Minister said he stood by Treasury chief Alistair Darling, who revealed the lapse at Britain's tax and customs service.

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