MI6 camera sold on eBay

October 1, 2008 // 1:52 p.m.

Tags: #camera #data #government #intelligence-services #mi6 #privacy

Just in case you thought it was just absent-minded public officials who mislaid CDs and left laptops in the backs of taxis, here's something to give cause for concern: even the security services aren't paying attention.

At least, that's the only conclusion you can draw from the news that a camera previously belonging to MI6 was sold on eBay for the princely sum of £17 while holding snaps of suspected terrorists, rocket launchers, and a document rated 'Top Secret' giving details of the encrypted computer network used by MI6 field agents. Whoops.

First spotted by Gizmodo in the Daily Mail – so take with a pinch of salt – the story is just the latest in a long series of gaffes and goofs the government – and subsidiaries thereof – have performed with extremely sensitive data. Yet this is perhaps the most shocking yet: all previous problems have been caused by bad luck or absent-mindedness – although the fact nothing ever seems to be encrypted is pretty unforgivable – but this latest faux pas would appear to be an instance of MI6 attempting to stretch the budget a little further by selling old equipment on eBay.

The lucky bidder, identified only as a 28-year-old from Hemel Hempstead, has had the camera seized and enjoyed the company of Special Branch in at least five separate visits to identify the circumstances surrounding the leak. The Foreign Office has stated that “a police investigation is under way,” but refuses to comment on the possibility of the camera being sold by an MI6 employee rather than stolen or lost before being fenced by an unwitting member of the public.

Have you ever purchased or sold a data storage device only to forget to wipe it or find more than you bargained for? Share your experiences over in the forums.
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