Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Safety fears over new register of all children

The headline is from The Times in the UK but the concerns apply everywhere that a 'database' is seen as solution to a communication problem.
ContactPoint was set up after the official report into the death of Victoria ClimbiĆ©. Lord Laming concluded that the eight-year-old’s murder could have been prevented had there been better communication between professionals.
Communication is not the same as broadcasting or publication. There is a sense of checks and balances between the participants in a communication. This is rarely apparent in stores of data offered to people on the basis of the role they undertake.
As Tom Fuller points out persons having a particular role are not necessarily to be trusted with the information. There will be inevitable bad eggs present in teaching; medical; legal; social work professions; and the police. Also leakage of information which should be private to the individual can occur from simple careless behaviour of otherwise trustworthy individuals. Sadly, assigning information access rights to a role (for example, head-teacher), does not prevent individual head-teachers delegating that responsibility to a temporary secretary which is probably not how the legislators or system designers saw the 'database' being acceptable.
In conventional communication, each request for information can trigger a question in the mind of the receiver about the possible use being made of the information provided. Ideally, technology solutions to the communication problems around public safety, health information and other privacy-loaded areas should not bypass these checks and balances. Given the risk of misuse of information by persons in a position of trust through their role, technology solutions should ensure that the minimum (necessary) information is released and that a clear trail of information release is maintained. If an authorised person enquires on such a database, they should expect to face enquiries themselves as to why and how the information was used. The kind of pattern analysis that detects potential credit card fraud should be applied to detect the abusers of the information systems.

No comments: