Sujet Anglais LV 1 lENA 2008

Lost in the post

IT TAKES a lot to produce gasps of astonishment from British politicians. But that was what greeted Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he told parliament on November 20th that two computer discs containing the personal details of 25m British individuals and 7m families had gone missing. The discs were being sent by internal mail between two government departments; they included names, addresses, bank-account details, dates of birth and names of spouses and children. The fate of the discs is unknown, but they contain just the sort of information sought after by identity thieves, who could use it to procure fake documents, commit fraud and empty bank accounts.

This is the latest in a series of such losses. HMRC, the tax-and-customs department which sent the discs, lost a laptop containing personal data on 400 people in September, and last month it lost another disk in the post, containing pension records for 15,000 people. But this week’s fiasco is on an entirely different scale. It ranks alongside the theft of data on 26.5m people stolen from the home of an employee of the Department of Veterans Affairs in America in 2006; and the loss by Bank of America in 2005 of tapes containing information on 1m American government employees. And there have been dozens of smaller cases around the world in which personal data have been lost by, or stolen from, credit-card companies, online retailers, government departments and banks.

Fear of identity fraud means that many people now routinely shred receipts and sensitive documents before binning them. But identity thieves rarely waste time looking in dustbins any more. There is no point bothering to steal one person’s details, when records can be had in their thousands and millions from leaky computer systems. Large databases have become central to the operation of governments, health systems, banks and other large companies.

And despite the howls from libertarians, nobody really wants to turn back the clock and revert to paper records.

What can be done?

As always with computer security, there are two things to remember. First, that security depends on a combination of technology and policy; and second, that no system is ever totally secure. It is safer to assume that there will be breaches, and work out how to minimise the damage. That means storing, and moving around, as little data as possible; anonymising records and linking to personal details stored in a separate database; and using encryption to protect data in transit. None of this was done by the HMRC. It was asked to supply anonymised data to the National Audit Office, but provided reams of unencrypted personal information instead.

Regulation has a role to play, too. Many European countries and 35 American states have rules that require companies and government departments to disclose breaches of information security to anyone affected. In many cases they are also legally liable for any loss. This gives them an incentive to store as little data as possible and to look after it properly. Britain, alas, has some of the most toothless data-protection rules in the developed world: the government recently rejected a plan to make reporting of breaches compulsory. According to one estimate, setting up new bank accounts for everyone affected by this week’s leak could cost £300m ($600m).

Even when sensible regulation is in place, however, it is no use if the rules are ignored-as in the most recent British case. So data-protection watchdogs need to be able to carry out spot checks to ensure that everything is being done by the book. But where other regulators, such as European antitrust investigators, have the power to carry out unexpected raids, Britain’s data-protection watchdog does not. The government has pledged to change this, but as things stand, all it can do is issue HMRC with a warning not to make the same mistakes again.

Large databases have their uses; doing away with paperwork and speeding things up. But the centralisation of so much data also has drawbacks, as this week’s mess shows. In its enthusiasm for huge technology projects, such as its plan for a national identity card, the British government has failed to take such dangers sufficiently seriously. And why should it, when its departments face no penalties for ignoring procedures and losing data? If organisations were confronted by the risks of building large databases and forced to balance them against the benefits they provide, they would design them differently and monitor their use more closely. Sometimes, they would decide that they were not worth building at all.

The Economist, 24 Nov 2007

I. VERSION (sur 20 points)

Traduire depuis :  » Fear of identity fraud means that…  » jusqu’à  » … stored in a separate database.  » (de la ligne 14 à la ligne 25)

II. QUESTIONS (sur 40 points)

1. Question de compréhension du texte

Explain what the following sentence means : « So data-protection watchdogs need to be able to carry out spot checks to ensure that everything is being done by the book. »

(100 mots + ou – 10 %) ; sur 10 points)

2. Question de compréhension du texte

Explain what the following sentence means: « And why should it, when its departments face no penalties for ignoring procedures and losing data? »

(100 mots + ou -10 %) ; sur 10 points)

3. Question d’expression personnelle

To what extent do you think people should disclose information about themselves?

(300 mots + ou -10 %) ; sur 20 points)

Le non respect de ces normes sera sanctionne. (Indiquer Ie nombre de mots sur la copie après chaque question).

III. THEME (sur 20 points)

Cette invasion pacifique, très sélective, a ses critères propres. Les Britanniques s’installent plus dans l’intérieur, pourvu qu’il soit campagnard, que sur le littoral. Paradoxalement, ils viennent réaliser en France un rêve … anglais, qui commence par l’achat d’une résidence secondaire et se poursuit souvent par l’installation définitive : « ils recherchent un cadre de vie qui leur corresponde vraiment. C’est l’image du cottage anglais, parce qu’ils ont beaucoup plus de mal a réaliser cette aspiration chez eux, pour des raisons de prix et de densite démographique », résume M. Deschamps. Jose-Alain Fralon confirme cette analyse : « Ces « gens-là », écrit-il, peuvent bien nous dire qu’ils adorent la France, qu’ils y vivent et veulent y mourir, ne nous leurrons pas : c’est en Angleterre qu’ils sont. Une Angleterre mythique, certes, une Angleterre rêvée (…), mais en Angleterre quand même. » Une Angleterre d’avant l’évolution vers une société de plus en plus dure. D’avant la raréfaction des espaces libres, dans un pays aujourd’hui deux fois plus peuplé que la France.

Jean-Louis ANDREANI, Le Monde, 21 juillet 2007