I’m not a great fan of the UK Honours system. Too often, honours are granted to those who have literally just done the job they have been paid for. Admittedly, some awards are for inspiring the nation rather than just being there, and Ben Stokes’ amazing finale in the cricket against New Zealand is a great example.
However, today we’ve seen a monumental mistake come to light, as we found out that the full contact details of all 1000+ New Year awards recipients 2020 had been published online.
It’s hard to imagine how this could have happened. The government has been publishing awards lists for years through their website. What went wrong this time?
It’s not a glitch
First of all, I hope that the government doesn’t claim a “computer glitch”. Computers do what we ask them to do. If a human presses the wrong button or uploads the wrong data, that’s not a glitch. If the software has been programmed incorrectly, that’s not a glitch. So let’s not use a glitch to swerve the real truth.
Somewhere in the publication process, a human made a mistake. The wrong file was uploaded, either inadvertently or carelessly through bad process. Either way, a person is accountable. If the review we can expect into the failure finds a person is to blame, we need to see the person admonished in the correct way. If this was negligence, the individual should be sacked.
Where does this leave the 1000+ award holders and how can these failings be addressed? We theoretically have robust processes for managing data breaches in the UK, based off EU GDPR rules. The rules need to be strictly enforced in this situation. Fines should be imposed. Precedent should be set.
The more likely outcome is this issue will be pushed sideways, kicked into the long grass or whatever expression is your favourite. After a lengthy internal inquiry, we can expect that “human error” will be quoted as a factor and “lessons will be learned”. The most disappointing outcome is that no-one will take personal accountability. Perhaps this is reflective of the state of the world as we edge closer to 2020.