Monday, 23 March 2009

Database State

Ten of the 46 major databases that our government keeps on its citizens are illegal according to recent research released by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust  – furthermore the majority of the remainder could be illegal depending on how they’re used.

No surprises really. In recent years these central databases have mushroomed as part of the ‘Transformational Government’ programme to make public services better, cheaper, and more joined-up. No comment on whether these objectives have been achieved (!) but one consequences of giving increasing numbers of civil servants daily access to our personal information is that over two-thirds of the population no longer trusts the government with their personal data.

Of course the breakdown of public trust in databases is not just a public sector phenomenon. As the media backlash against Google Maps’ latest innovation of 3D views of our streets and homes shows, private databases can come under fire from a privacy-demanding public as well.

The data centre industry needs to be prepared for these developments as we are very much part of the ‘freedom vs. privacy’ debate. If certain data is illegal (or even undesirable) what does this make the data centre that’s holding it? Are we aiding and abetting the use of illegal databases? To whom does a co-lo or data hotel owe its allegiance – their client or the person whose records they are keeping?

 These may be lofty themes but, as the debate continues, I guarantee that more and more data centre owners will face the dilemma of legal demands to handover the data that they store on behalf of their clients. When this starts to happen we must make sure that the data centre industry’s house is in order – we must ensure that our data storage policies, procedures and security are clear and transparent so we remain part of the information age’s solution, not a contributor to its problems.

The Database State’s ‘Top 20’ – How many are you on? 

  • National DNA Database
  • National Identity Register
  • ContactPoint - information on every child
  • NHS Detailed Care Record - GP and hospital records
  • Secondary Uses Service - summaries of hospital treatment
  • Common Assessment Framework - child welfare assessments
  • ONSET - a Home Office system that predicts which children will offend in the future!
  • The Department for Work & Pension’s data sharing programme,
  • National Fraud Initiative
  • The Communications Database - of itemised phone bills, email headers and mobile phone location history
  • PrĂ¼m Framework – EU-wide data-sharing for law enforcement
  • NHS Summary Care Record
  • National Childhood Obesity Database
  • National Pupil Database
  • Automatic Number Plate Recognition
  • The Schengen Information System, a European police database
  • Customer Information System - of the Department for Work and Pensions
  • National Fingerprint Database
  • TV Licensing

What your scores mean:

1-10 databases: Just because they keep information on you, it doesn’t mean you’re interesting.

11-15 databases: Don’t worry Mr Smith, Mr Smit or Mr Smiht. The average data entry clark is unlikely to have spelt your surname the same way twice.

More than 15 databases: Send us a postcard from Belmarsh!

No comments:

Post a Comment