Computer with data on 20,000 people stolen in Denmark

Confidential data on 20,000 residents in Gladsaxe, a municipality in central Zealand, were saved locally on a computer stolen that was recently stolen from the town’s city hall.

Computer with data on 20,000 people stolen in Denmark
Gladsaxe City Hall. Photo: Kjeld Johansen/Wikimedia commons

The computer was stolen during a break-in between during the weekend of November 30th to December 3rd, Politiken reports.

Information stored on the machine includes personal registration numbers, age, gender, address and marital status.

In some cases, details of social welfare payments and housing as well as membership of the Church of Denmark are also listed.

Gladsaxe Municipality informed affected residents of the issue on Monday.

Personal information is normally protected, including from incidences of theft, according to the council.

“But in this case, one of the (stolen) computers contained a spreadsheet with confidential information which, due to human error, was temporarily saved locally on the computer,” the municipality wrote.

It is unclear whether people living in other municipalities may also have been affected, given that the data was for the purpose of checking accounts between Gladsaxe and other areas.

The municipality has reported the incident to the Danish Data Protection Agency (Datatilsynet) and to the police, but risks a fine over the incident due to GDPR rules.

Municipal director Bo Rasmussen expressed his apologies over the theft and said it was difficult to prevent human error.

“But we have, in the last few months, made a huge effort to inform our managers and staff on how to deal with sensitive information in a secure way according to data protection rules. But this happened nevertheless,” Rasmussen said to Politiken.

“That’s not good enough,” he said.

The director added that he hoped the theft was targeted at the hardware rather than the data, in which case the hard disk containing the confidential information is likely to have been wiped.

READ ALSO: Data of over 40,000 in Denmark may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica


Denmark’s plastic littering mapped out in world-first project

Plastic packets, cigarette butts and other litter are still causing a mess in nature areas in Denmark.

Denmark’s plastic littering mapped out in world-first project
File photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

A national survey, Mass Experiment 2019, resulted in the collection of 374,082 pieces of plastic waste at natural areas such as beaches, parks and in ditches, Ritzau reports.

57,000 Danish school students participated in collection of the litter.

Mass Experiment is the world’s first attempt at mapping plastic pollution for a whole country.

“The plastic found by the students is typically different types of disposable plastic,” Kristian Syberg, an associate professor at Roskilde University’s Department of Science and Environment and a researcher on the project, told Ritzau.

“Much of it cannot be recycled, which is why many people tend to throw it away in the wild,” Syberg added.

“This can also impact animals which can become stuck in it or think it is food and eat it. Then they can't distinguish it (from actual food) and get a false sense of being full and can die from hunger,” he continued.

Syberg is also spokesperson for the MarinePlastic research centre, where the project’s results have been analyzed and recorded in a database developed by the European Environment Agency.

Among other types of trash, 112,018 cigarette butts were collected, representing a third of the total litter found.

“Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, which is used to make some types of plastic. This makes it difficult for nature to break them down,” said Niels Them Kjær, a project manager for tobacco prevention with the Danish Cancer Society (Kræftens Bekæmpelse).

“If the cigarette has been smoked, there is also tar in the filter, which also pollutes the environment when you throw away the butt,” he added.

Environment minister Lea Wermelin said findings are “deeply troubling”.

Wermelin noted that political action is being taken to reduce the use of plastics, including bans on cotton wool swabs, disposable cutlery and plastic straws.

Additionally, the price of plastic carrier bags has tripled, and businesses will be banned from providing free carrier bags from January 1st 2021.

READ ALSO: New laws: Here’s what changes in Denmark in 2020

The minister also said individual responsibility must be taken for the environment.

“It [the result of the study, ed.] s also something that I hope will be thought-provoking,” she said.

“And that can help to ensure a change of attitude, so that fewer pieces of plastic are thrown in our nature to the detriment of animals,” she added.