After ID Cards…

The next government initiative to undermine privacy is the Children’s Database project. I am one of the authors of a report on this, which was written for the Information Commissioner and will be published later in September. Press interest is starting to mount (see the Telegraph, the Tiimes, the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail), and there will be a TV programme on the subject today (More 4 at half past seven). If you’re in the UK and are interested in privacy or computer security, that might be worth watching.

The project aims at linking up all the government systems that keep information on kids. Your kids’ schoolteachers will be able to see not just their school records but also their medical records, social work records, police records and probation records; see here for the background. I can’t reveal the contents of the report prior to publication but I am reminded of Brian Gladman’s punchline in his talk at SFS8: ‘You can have scale, or functionality, or security.If you’re smart you can build a system with any two of these. But you can’t have all three.’

As well as the technical objections there are legal objections – and strong practical objections from social workers who believe that the project is putting children in harm’s way.

1 thought on “After ID Cards…

  1. I saw the TV program. On aspect it went into but did not resolve was that of incorect entries.

    They mentioned the case of one young lad who had been sitting in a park with his friends. The police came and took their details and he ended up on an experimental register, his parents complained and where told his details would be removed. After a little investigation this proved to have not happened. They did not mention what method he had of redress (if any).

    I guess the only option is for the person to take civil action against the Police, but they are under eighteen which kind of makes things difficult.

    Prior to hearing about the details (such as they are prior to feature creep) I had had concernes about data agrigation (such as named school test results etc)

    You can guess at my horror on finding out that teachers would be expected to ask questionairs of the children and based on the number of points they scored decide if the child is a serious risk or not and should be entered into the youth justice system. The opportunity for abuse by a discruntald teacher or other person in the school is just to horrifying to contemplate. Especially as the questiones appear to be biased in favour of indicating that children have undesirable tendencies.

    But I was absolutly amazed to here one person interviewd indicating the Home Office intended to put children into the system before they where born based on what (supposed) “experts” said where risk factors. This whole system sounds worse than “credit profiling” based not on your track record but what the credit agency things your profile should be based on a set of questions…

    The next question is what else are they going to agrigate in to DBs about your child. In the London area children under sixteen get free travel on busses and trams (and the service is about to ibe extended to others). On the face of it it sounds quite good for the children and parents.

    However they have to have an Oyster Card that has a large number of details about them recorded in a central database (and I have been told this includes their photograph). The same database also stores every journy thay make at what times etc. Also the card it’s self contains a large amount of information including atleast the last 25 journies made on the card. Which a ticket inspector can read of at will wih a small hand scanner, based on what I have seen every card downloads this data when scanned and the inspector can view it at their leisure (so the card holder is compleatly unaware of it).

    Apparently police are now asking children for their Oyster cards as proof of ID (even though they do not have to show it). If the child does not show it the are reports of preasure being applied.
    How long before they police are allowed to scan the card to get the journy details and run them through the local crime DB to see if the child was in the area. Or worse still link the crime DB upto the childrens travel DB and dump out a list of children to go and talk to…

    I also have other concerns, the Police have found that paedophiles occupy all positions in life via operation Candyman (Internet Child Porn) including a family liaison Police Officer who worked with the Chapman family during the Soham double murder, who was arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences. You can see more at,

    If a Policeman in such a sensitive position for many years can be an undiscovered paedophile, only being discoverd by chance, how many more people are in equally sensitive postions that have not been discoverd by chance?

    What level of screening has been placed on the people working with or with access to the Oystercard data (including the ticket inspectors) I suspect very little or none.

    And do they even need to be in sensitive positions, probably not. In recent times the family tax credit system has been badly hit by fraud where thousands of peoples payrole details have been stolen from goverment Depts and other large organisations. How where they stolen, well it appears they obtained tapes of DB backups etc.SO how difficult would it be for an an undiscovered paedophile to get your childs data?

    I know that various “Whitehall Manderins” have been trying to get ID cards into place for many many years and most previous governments have not given it the time of day. However it appears that now the Government is more compliant (for whatever reason) the result is I suspect that your child will become very much at risk because of it…

    Oh and it would appear that the Goverment knows it cannot be made secure, as special extra security precautions are taken for the children of Politicins etc….

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