LONDON — Britain’s defence ministry has lost more than 700 laptops and computers over 18 months, according to figures released on Wednesday. A total of 759 laptops and computers were lost and an additional 32 were stolen between the May 2015 election and October 2016, records released by the Press Association show. A further 328 CDs, DVDs and USBs were lost by the defence ministry over the same period, according to the data requested under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act.
The ministry has launched an investigation but says a suspected accountancy error could lead to a large fall in the figures. Overall at least 1,000 government laptops, computers and USBs have been reported lost or stolen since May 2015. The Department of Work and Pensions reported 42 missing encrypted laptops or computers and eight USBs up to August, saying most of the losses and thefts either ocurred during break-ins or while the user was travelling.
Other government departments to respond to the request include the Treasury, which recorded eight missing laptops, one of which was recovered, and one missing memory stick.
One ministry created less than six months ago by Prime Minister Theresa May — the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy — said six laptops have already been lost or stolen since July. A further 49 laptops were recorded missing by other government departments, although the overall figure could be much higher as many ministries refused to release their figures. They include the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health, which all claimed releasing such information would be useful to criminals. Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, criticised their response: “The fact the Ministry of Defence felt able to answer makes it very implausible that these civilian departments cannot” do the same.