A missing British Ministry of Defence computer hard drive may contain personal details of as many as 1.7 million people who have inquired about joining the armed forces, it was revealed today.
Opposition parties warned that the information contained on the drive represented “a potential goldmine for organised crime” and could even compromise national security.
When the loss of the disk from the premises of contractor EDS in Hook, Hampshire, was first announced last week, it was thought that it carried the names, addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, next-of-kin and driving licence details of up to 100,000 British Army, Navy and RAF personnel.
But armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth today announced that further investigations had revealed it contained data relating to large numbers of people who asked for information about careers in the forces.
In a written statement to parliament, he said: “Whilst conducting an audit of storage media, EDS found that it could not find a removable hard disk drive. Under the terms of its contract EDS is required to protect all personal information in its care.
“The hard drive had been used with the TAFMIS recruitment system and may, in the worst case, contain details relating to 1.7 million individuals who have enquired about joining the Armed Forces.”
Where people simply made casual inquiries, only their name and contact numbers are likely to have been recorded, said Mr Ainsworth.
But for those who went on to apply to join up, the drive could include more extensive data, including next of kin details, passport and National Insurance numbers, drivers’ licence and bank details and NHS numbers.
It was unlikely that the details on the hard drive were encrypted for security.