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By | Lester Haines 14th February 2007 14:25

Nationwide fined £980,000 over stolen laptop

Details on 11 million customers went awol

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined The Nationwide Building Society £980,000 for the loss of a laptop which contained "confidential customer data" on 11 million customers.

The laptop was stolen from a Nationwide employee's home. Although he quickly reported the theft, according to the BBC, he didn't tell his employers what was on the machine until after a three-week holiday, at which time Nationwide started an investigation.

What customer details the laptop contained is not clear. Although Nationwide "claimed that the information on it could not have been used for identity fraud as there were no PIN numbers, passwords or account balance information on it", the BBC notes the laptop "may have contained names, addresses and account numbers." Accordingly, "customers had been exposed to the risk of financial crime".

The FSA found Nationwide was not aware the laptop "contained any confidential customer information at all".

FSA enforcement director Margaret Cole said: "Nationwide is the UK's largest building society and holds confidential information for over 11 million customers. Nationwide's customers were entitled to rely upon it to take reasonable steps to make sure their personal information was secure."

The FSA further noted: "The failure to manage or monitor downloads of very large amounts of data onto portable storage devices meant that Nationwide had limited control over information held in this way or how it was used."

Nationwide subsequently wrote to all customers apologising for the cock-up. Chief exec Philip Williamson offered: "I wish to emphasise that there has been no loss of money from our customers' accounts as a result of this incident."

Nationwide declined to say whether the employee in question - who apparently had legitimate access to the data - had been disciplined or sacked. The laptop has not been recovered. ®

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