Tories to scrap ContactPoint

The Tories say they’ll scrap ContactPoint if when they win the next election:

A flagship database of every child living in England, which is due to be launched by the government next year, will be shutdown by a Conservative government.

The £224 million ContactPoint database, which has been delayed twice because of security issues, will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under 18s and detailed information on their parents, GPs, and schools.

(Incidently, that’s not true. Children whose parents are MPs won’t go on ContactPoint. It seems that our lords and masters have quietly decided for themselves just how secure it will be.)

The Conservatives fear that the database, which will be accessed by 330,000 people working in education, health, social care, youth justice, and the voluntary sector will be exploited by paedophiles. They also believe that there is a real danger of sensitive data being mislaid or lost.

Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, told the Daily Telegraph: “We are taking this action because we are determined to protect vulnerable children from abuse. ContactPoint would increase that risk. The government has proved that it cannot be trusted to set up large databases and cannot promise that inappropriate people would be able to access the database.”

Something to tell people when they say the Tories will be worse than Labour.

(via The ARCH Blog).

This entry was posted in Britain, digital rights, human rights, politics, society, war on civil liberties and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Tories to scrap ContactPoint

  1. Graham says:

    Children whose parents are MPs won’t go on ContactPoint.

    Has this been explicitly stated, or is it assumed from the “celebrities” exemption?

    From a security PoV, it’s hard to imagine that local councils won’t have databases covering this, and a hotchpotch of locally developed solutions could very well be worse. In fact, I would have thought it fairy inevitable that a few councils would have better ones and the majority have worse.

  2. Lee Griffin says:

    Graham, smaller systems are easier to secure, easier to find leaks and ultimately put a smaller amount of people in danger. While you could argue that should these systems exist locally (which as far as I’m aware, they do not) they should be better regulated, it is certainly not an argument for a massive database of all of our children’s data.

  3. cabalamat says:

    Regarding the children of MPs, I got that from a Guardian article I’ve quoted here: “The paper said that the security concerns had been heightened by the disclosure that details of the children of politicians and celebrities were likely to be excluded from the system.”

    Unfortunately the original article no longer exists (grrr).

  4. cabalamat says:

    The reason for the celebrities exemption is, of course, that the government are worried that details about celebrities’ children would regularly get into the newspapers after they bribe one of the 330,000 poeple who have access to the database into revealing them.

  5. cabalamat says:

    Graham: I would have thought it fairy inevitable that a few councils would have better ones and the majority have worse

    You’re probably right. I bet some councils’ systems are / would be absolute stinkers.

    If councils were sensible about this and other tasks, they would have all the software they produce/use be open source, so that they could all share best practise with each other. Then you might end up with each council running its own database, but using the same software.

    Though my prefered solution would be not to have a database of all children at all (either nationally or locally). Obviously social services departments would continue to have records of children at risk.

  6. ukliberty says:

    Has this been explicitly stated [that the children of MPs will not be on ContactPoint], or is it assumed from the “celebrities” exemption?

    It seems a reasonable assumption: MPs asked if the details of their children or the children of celebrities would be on ContactPoint. It was then that ‘shielding’ was ‘tacked on’ to the design!

    Shielding is for cases ranging from children under witness protection to those of well known parents – fundamentally, if it is thought that the risk to a child presented by his data being on the database outweighs the risk to the child if his data is ‘shielded’, the intention is that his data will be shielded.

    it’s hard to imagine that local councils won’t have databases covering this

    Of course local authorities have all kinds of databases. The thing is, a user from a local authority can’t normally access the database belonging to another local authority, or one department will find it difficult to access a database owned by another department. Apparently this is a problem…

    The real issue is that it is inevitable such data will be abused – there is plenty of precedent, in particular a recent example of a local authority employee trawling databases for the details of vulnerable young women in his area who he would then go on to rape.

    So we have to mitigate these risks.

    It used to be the case (and I believe it still is) that competent system designers believed we should only store the data adequate and necessary for specific and limited purposes (indeed this principle is one of those in listed in the Data Protection Act 1998). Another principle is that only those who need access to the data should be able to access it.

    This Government seems to have abandoned both of these sensible principles.

  7. Pingback: ContactPoint to be scrapped « Amused Cynicism

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