New Dutch database to create lifetime record for every baby

By EDRi · September 21, 2005

The Dutch ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport plans to introduce a new
electronic file on every new-born, starting in January 2007. The file will
contain information about the child, the family situation and its
surroundings, later adding educational data, information from social
workers and possible police records. The file will be principally
maintained by youth doctors and medics working for the child public health
care service. The file will be connected to the citizen service number, a
new electronic ID for every Dutch resident and citizen replacing the old
social-fiscal number. Secretary of State ClĂ©mence Ross explained: “Medics
can easily trace the development and situation of a child and thus get a
clear picture of its need for care. They can also see which other
institutions work or have worked with a child. The electronic childfile
thus helps the smooth hand-over between different caretakers.”

It is not clear if the electronic file also requires biometric
identifiers. In that case, another problem with biometrics will become
apparent. Fingerprinting children, especially babies, can be very
challenging. In an analysis of the first pilot with the issuing of
biometric passports in the Netherlands, the Dutch institute for applied
scientific research TNO concludes: “It is especially difficult to get
babies to unclench their fists in order to take good prints.” In addition,
facial features of young children change rapidly, making subsequent
automatic facial-verification unreliable.

The announcement of the ministry comes as an extra surprise given the
recent spectacular hack of the databases of two hospitals in the
Netherlands. The hackers – in collaboration with the direction of the
hospitals – obtained access to records about 1.2 million people. The hack
made it painfully clear the government plans to introduce electronic
medical and medication files lack basic attention for security. Questions
were immediately raised in Parliament, where the Minister admitted he was
shocked by the hack. He promised he would raise the standards for
security, but didn’t promise to dedicate any extra money.

Press release Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (in Dutch, 16.09.2005)

TNO report about the first trial with biometric passports (in Dutch,

Dutch treat: personal database (15.09.2005),1848,68866,00.html