Title from the headline of this story in the Independent.
Oh, I'm sorry, and there I was worrying about yet another massive loss of personal data. Silly me. I thought 'lost' meant that you couldn't possibly know where something was or who had it. Are this government working with a different definition of the word 'lost' to the rest of us? I couldn't really blame them, I suppose. When I look at the the entry on dictionary.com for 'lost', there are no fewer than twelve definitions. Let's see if any of them could be Jack Straw's, eh?
1. no longer possessed or retained: lost friends.
Now this is something the Labour party should know all about. They have been simply *haemorrhaging* friends since Toady Blair abandoned them, and they do know precisely where to find them: they've run away to join the party ideologically closest to New Labour, haven't they? I don't think this is what Jack means, though. Losing friends in this sense of the word is understandable, and in many cases unrectifiable, but if you find you no longer possess a disc containing the personal data of justice staff and know precisely where it is, you go and get it back. Rather than waiting over a year for the News of the World to break yet another story of your government's incompetence.
2. no longer to be found: lost articles.
See, this is what I think of when I see news stories about data losses of this kind. Memory sticks, blank passports, discs and entire laptops, when they are described as 'lost', generally cannot be found. Which means Jack Straw can't possibly know which hands the data has fallen into and shouldn't be making these kind of pronouncements to the press that suggest otherwise. But let's press on and see if we can figure out what he is talking about.
3. having gone astray or missed the way; bewildered as to place, direction, etc.: lost children.
The guy who was driving the van with this particular disc in it would have had to have been in the Guinness Book of Records for longest time lost, if this is the definition we're talking about. The last time the disc was seen was in July 2007.
4. not used to good purpose, as opportunities, time, or labor; wasted: a lost advantage.
Oh, there's every chance the data will be "not used to good purpose". And Labour are definitely "losing the advantage" when it comes to the debate on ID cards, with this record of looking after people's personal data.
5. being something that someone has failed to win: a lost prize.
I hope this isn't the definition of 'lost' they were using to describe the disc, because it's just not on to raffle off 500GB of sensitive data, now is it? Has Jack Straw been playing poker with employees' bank details on the table? The public must know!
6. ending in or attended with defeat: a lost battle.
I'm quite sure this isn't the 'lost' we're looking for in this case, even though Jack Straw and his party will no doubt become extremely well acquainted with this usage the day after the next general election.
7. destroyed or ruined: lost ships.
Getting that sinking feeling, Jack?
8. preoccupied; rapt: He seems lost in thought.
Lost in la-la land more like. I'm still not seeing how 'lost' can equate to 'not in the wrong hands' here...
9. distracted; distraught; desperate; hopeless: the lost look of a man trapped and afraid.
Another nice suggestion for how the Labour government should be feeling right now, but in no way applicable to a disc full of data. We're getting near the end now, do you think we'll find out what he meant?
10. pt. and pp. of lose.
Which kind of covers the same ground as definitions given above. If you lose something, you generally don't know where it is.
11. get lost, Slang.
I wish some people would...
12. lost to,
a. no longer belonging to.
b. no longer possible or open to: The opportunity was lost to him.
c. insensible to: lost to all sense of duty.
And the final definition is akin to my final analysis of the situation: this government *is* lost to all sense of duty, responsibility and shame. In the last year, we have seen so much of people's personal personal data lost by the government or its departments that it's staggering. 25 million child benefit claimants, 3 million learner drivers, 600 thousands applicants to the armed services, and now thousands of justice staff just have to trust in the wishy-washy statements of cabinet members.
It's an insult for ministers to say that they don't think the data has fallen into the wrong hands when they can't possibly know, and it's dangerous to assume that nothing too bad can come of personal data going astray (just ask Jeremy Clarkson).
It's an insult to the public that because of this latest breach, prison officers will need in many cases to be relocated for their own safety, at the taxpayers' expense.
It's an insult that nobody has resigned or been sacked from the cabinet over it, nor are there any plans to stop building the enormous central identity database or shelve the expensive and unnecessary ID card plans. And on that note, I'll leave the final words on this to the Liberal Democrats' Justice Spokesperson, David Howarth: The Government has shown once again that it cannot handle large amounts of data. Why it is persisting with the ID card scheme is beyond comprehension and it should be dropped immediately.