Confidentiality blow for Swansea as IT strike continues

The
ongoing industrial dispute between Swansea Council and its IT staff has taken a
new twist, with the Unison union claiming contractors covering for the striking
workers have left confidential financial and personal information unsecured.

The
indefinite strike by 102 IT staff over a proposed £100m outsourcing of the
council’s IT workforce to the private sector has become increasingly bitter and
is now in its fifth week.

The
security lapse was discovered last week by a council employee who took
photographs and then notified Unison. The photos show stacks of computer discs
and tapes clearly visible in an open safe.

The
union said the discs and tapes in the safe contain around six years-worth of
housing benefits data, including personal financial information, changes in
circumstances and other personal information such as marital status and details
of children.

Unison
insisted that the safe was left locked and in a secure state by IT staff prior
to the strike commencing.

IT
cover is being provided by contractors.

Unison
said the lapse is "unacceptable and unprofessional". A union
statement said: "This safe should never, under any circumstances, be left
in this unsecured state."

But
Swansea Council has hit back at the claims and said there was never any risk of
the data on the discs and tapes being compromised.

A
spokesman said: "These allegations will be looked into as part of an
on-going audit of IT issues.

"There
was no risk that the data contained on these discs could have been published.
To suggest otherwise is misleading and scaremongering. It is impossible to
meaningfully view the content of the discs without access to both the back-up
device on which the discs were created, and also through the use of specialist
software purchased by the council, to which only a limited number of staff have
access.

"Contrary
to claims by striking staff, the Housing Benefit system has been operational
throughout the industrial action, and there has been no impact on customers,
including payments."

The
striking IT staff have now
written an open letter to council leader Tim Thorogood asking how the security lapse was allowed
to happen and to provide guarantees about the security of data while the strike
is ongoing.

By Daniel Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

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