FIPR report on children's databases – likely to harm rather than help
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The UK Information Commissioner has just published a report on the UK
Government’s plans to link up most of the public-sector databases that
contain information on children. The report was written by experts
from the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), who
conclude that aggregating this data will be both unsafe and illegal.
The report, ‘Children’s Databases: Safety and Privacy’, analyses
databases being built to collate information on children in education,
youth justice, health, social work and elsewhere. Although linking the
databases is supposed to safeguard children, the report’s authors
point out that extending Britain’s child protection systems – from
the 50,000 children at substantial risk of serious harm to the 3-4
million children with some health, education or other welfare issue –
means that child protection will receive less attention.
The project will also feed information into police systems that try to
identify children likely to offend by scoring various risk factors
(socioeconomic status, medical diagnoses such as hyperactivity, school
conduct reports, and whether the child’s father has been in prison).
This carries a serious risk of stigmatising innocent children, and may
also undermine children’s and patents’ trust in doctors, teachers and
The report’s authors also conclude that the systems will intrude so
much into privacy and family life that they will violate European data
protection law and human rights law.
Report “Children’s Databases – Safety and Privacy” (22.11.2006)
IT systems designed to protect kids will put them at risk instead
(Contribution by Ross Anderson, EDRI-member FIPR, UK)