Personal data is as hot as nuclear waste

We should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium - it is dangerous, long-lasting and once it has leaked there's no getting it back.

When HM Revenue & Customs haemorrhaged the personal and financial information of 25 million British families in November, wags dubbed it the "Privacy Chernobyl", a meltdown of global, epic proportions.

The metaphor is apt: the data collected by corporations and governmental agencies is positively radioactive in its tenacity and longevity. Nuclear accidents leave us wondering just how we're going to warn our descendants away from the resulting wasteland for the next 750,000 years while the radioisotopes decay away. Privacy meltdowns raise a similarly long-lived spectre: will the leaked HMRC data ever actually vanish?

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