You will of course recall my recent post on Big Data in which I related how many laptops are left in the back of taxis. 10,857.14 of them every year to be precise. Well I was wrong. Not only did I underestimate how many cabs there are in London but the average number of laptops left in them every year was wrong.
Today I was picked up by a driver who estimated he had found 8 laptops over the last 5 years (up from the previous 4 in 7) and that there were around 25,000 black cabs in London (up from 16,000).
This bumps up the averages. To make it easy on myself if I assume only one a year that suggests that 25,000 laptops are left in London black cabs every year.
Now I know someone will pipe up and say that this is not very scientific and they would be right. The number sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?
Well I’ve just been reading through the written responses to the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill. In their submission Privacy International suggest that the biggest risk caused to the security of information that HMG wants to gather on you and I is mostly human error, loss or theft.
PI lists some breaches of security:
In January 2008, the MOD lost details of 600,000 persons interested in joining the UK Armed Forces by the MOD. In July 2008 news reports emerged that the MOD had admitted that 658 laptops had been stolen, 89 lost and 32 recovered since 2004 and 121 memory sticks were unaccounted for. Thirty five laptops were reported to have been lost at GCHQ resulting in concerns raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee in their 2007‐2008 annual report. In the same year, a mobile telephone sold on eBay was found by the new owner to contain photographs and information relating to terrorism investigations which had not been deleted by the previous owner, an operative in MI6.
If people who are meant to understand the value of the data they have for safekeeping on their devices can lose so many then it must come as no surprise that so many laptops could be left accidentally in taxis, an place conducive to oversight and forgetfulness.
As a little project I’m going to ask every taxi driver for the next few trips how many laptops have been left in their cabs. Why don’t you do the same and report back?
As a footnote the cabbie who gave me a lift today related the story of the woman who had left bags full of new designer clothes in his cab. He called his wife to describe then and was told that they were worth thousands – just the leather jacket alone would fetch £1,500. The cabbie, honest citizen that he was, made his way back to where he thought he had dropped off the woman.
There she was sat on the kerb, crying her eyes out. Not only had she lost her clothes but had been abandoned by her boyfriend who I can only surmise had paid for the gear. Of course the woman was overjoyed and as a mark of gratitude for the return of the thousands of pounds worth of stuff (and presumably, later, the recovering of the relationship with her boyfriend) gave the driver a fifty pence tip!
Nowt so strange as folk…