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Largest Data Leak in Norway: data on 4 million Norwegians sent to media

OSLO - Norway's national tax office mistakenly sent confidential information about nearly 85% of Norwegian adults to nine major media groups, an error the government described as "extremely serious."


Tax authorities said they had sent CD-ROMs filled with the 2006 tax returns of nearly four million people living in Norway, a country of just 4.6 million inhabitants, to the editorial staff at national newspapers, radios and television stations.
While tax statements are open to public scrutiny in the Scandinavian country, the so-called personal number (like a social security number) inscribed on each form is highly confidential. The number can for instance be used to change a person's home address, reroute their mail and purchase products on their account.
The tax authorities, who have requested that the CD-ROMs be returned, stressed that the documents could only be opened by using a secret code, which it insisted limited the possibility that the personal numbers would be widely distributed.
In Norway tax returns have been publicly available since 1863, but only accessible online since 2002. Details include name, age, income and address, and can be matched with searchable online directories such as the phone book to obtain home, work and mobile numbers along with professional details for a full portrait of an individual.

Nikolay Fedotov, Infowatch senior analyst comments:
“Wise Wang Fu Jing once said: “There’s a secret – there’s a problem. No secret – no problem”. Probably Chinese philosopher would consider introduction of the Norwegian personal numbers (like SSN in USA) an erroneous decision. Personal number – is a confidential number, with which you can identify your personality remotely. There’s no such in Russia. We have “Please come with passport personally” instead. More messy but definitely more secure solution.
Method of the confidential SSN was invented before the network era. Now it brings more problems than solutions. Unfortunately, it would be extremely hard to swap it for anything else. In the end, however, change is inevitable.

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