May 20, 2007: Following Channel 4 exposure that data of people booking Visa online from India to UK is prone to identity theft, Britain today suspended its online visa application facility from India and has ordered a probe into the security lapse.
Since the launch of online Visa facility, more than 50,000 travelers apply for Visa Online. Following report telecast by Britain’s Channel 4, that the internet visa applications had some seriously security lapse, Concerns were expressed by Britain’s Opposition party that this security breach is open to be exploited by terrorists. The channel reported that one of the applicants noticed the lapse in April last year. Visa processing in India has been contracted out by the Foreign Office to a private Indian company, VFS global. The same company provides services in Russia and Nigeria and Britain suspended the online Visa Applications in these countries too. VFS was awarded a five year contract worth 190 million pounds.
The British Information Commissioner, the Government’s data private watchdog, was probing into the lapse, an official said today. The commissioner has demanded a “full explanation” from the Foreign Office.
The information commissioner’s office is an independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.
There is a looming suspicion that personal data may have been stolen. The security flaw continued for about a year. Home addresses, date of birth and passport numbers were all said to be accessible for more than a year. The online system has been running since 2003.