UK Government switches off child database


I have previously raised concerns about the creation of the national ContactPoint database of all children that was put in place in 2009. I’m therefore delighted to note that this is to be shut down.

The BBC  reports that the “£235m government database containing the records of England’s 11 million children has been switched off. … Within two months of the switch-off all the data collected for the system is to be destroyed, although the information will still remain in the social services, education and health departments it had been gathered from. But there have been concerns that there is nothing collating key information centrally in one place. The system, which has been running since January last year, was always controversial and was set to cost a further £41m a year. After successive delays, it was rolled out to only 15,000 users, out of the initial target of 330,000. The system was used by doctors, social workers, schools, charities and other individuals involved in the protection of children. Many said it was useful in tracking children and discovering the truth about the way they are cared for. …  But civil liberties groups criticised it as intrusive and disproportionate.”

While it is of course crucial that we find ways to try to ensure that all those seeking to support “children at risk” can share information efficiently, the creation of a national database of information about all children raised huge ethical issues.  Whilst it seems that the reason for the closure of ContactPoint was largely on cost grounds, it is good to see that this represents at least a small step back from the excessive use of ICTs by the UK state to maintain databases of information so that it can more effectively monitor and control the country’s population.

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Filed under Ethics, ICT4D, UK

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