The public consultation on the future of internet safety in the UK took a blow today as a document released by the Department for Education exposed the email addresses and passwords of members of the public who had signed up to the debate.
The privacy gaffe, reported by The Register, has been brought to the attention of the DfE, which promptly shuttered the site.
The page where previously you could register your details in order to take part are now closed with a “temporarily closed for maintenance” message in place.
Screengrabs reveal that names and email addresses were publicly visible, somewhat ironically next to a check box asking ‘if you want us to keep your response confidential’.
So whatever side of this debate you’re on, it looks like personal privacy wasn’t exactly high on the Department’s list.
Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch criticised the Department’s lack of security:
“At a time when the Home Office wants to monitor our emails and the websites we visit and the Department for Education is consulting on forcing internet providers to control people’s internet access, this kind of fundamental security failure is nothing short of astounding.
It calls into question whether the Government has any credibility whatsoever on technology issues, despite repeated assurances that lessons of the past have been learned.”
The Big Brother Watch had previously criticised the plans, with Pickles asking “Are internet providers are also expected to spy on their customers to check they are not looking at something they should not be? This is a crazy plan and I hope the Government does not hesitate in saying so.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been notified of the privacy breach and will rule on whether or not the screw up contravenes the Data Protection Act.
We’ll update as soon as we hear more about the Department’s plans and measures to re-open the debate. This is obviously something that people will want to have their say on, but with assurances that any information shared will be properly secured.
Thumb image credit: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström