A flagship database intended to protect every child in the country [er - no] will be used by police to hunt for evidence of crime in a “shocking” extension of its original purpose, The Daily Telegraph has learned.
ContactPoint will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under-18s in England as well as information on their parents, GPs, schools and support services such as social workers.
The £224 million computer system was announced in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbié,
[who it wouldn't have helped, as she wouldn't have been on it] who was abused and then murdered after a string of missed opportunities to intervene by the authorities [again, just as with illegal immigration, a big part of the alleged problem is a lack of enforcement of existing rules], as a way to connect the different services dealing with children.
It has always been portrayed as a way for professionals to find out which other agencies are working with a particular child, to make their work easier and provide a better service for young people.
However, it has now emerged that police officers, council staff, head teachers, doctors and care workers will use the records to search for evidence of criminality and wrongdoing to help them launch prosecutions against those on the database – even long after they have reached adulthood.
It comes amid growing concern about the increasing criminalisation of Britain’s youth and the extent of the country’s surveillance society. …
I’m being sarcastic when I say it’s shocking. I don’t think it’s shocking at all that it turns out that a system sold to us as being for a particular purpose (and for the protection of “Just One Child!”, no less) has undergone “function creep”.
And It’s For Our Own Good.
It’s not only Rother Council which has been quarrelling with whatdotheyknow.com. The House of Commons authorities are also involved in a continuing tussle over the site’s policy of automatically publishing responses to freedom of information requests.
This dispute has attracted the attention of Cabinet Office IT minister Tom Watson (himself an FOI requester when a backbench MP), who comments ‘Oh good grief’. Is it safe to assume that it is the stance of the Commons which is the cause of his exasperation?
In short, the House of Commons FOIA people are rejecting a request by asserting copyright. But they don’t have to assert copyright – they can waive it.
(They of course unhelpfully neglected to provide the reason for not waiving copyright.)
The silly thing here is that FOIA is applicant blind, and the House of Commons seems willing to provide the requester this information – it seems willing to provide other requesters with the information. So what is the practical difference between sending a hundred requesters the same information and allowing the information to be published on a website?
When will our employees could give up prevaricating and procrastinating and give us our information?
I’ve been keeping an eye on the interactions between users of WhatDoTheyKnow and Rother District Council. It’s particularly interesting because, rather than viewing the requests dispassionately and objectively – indeed, disinterestedly – some employees seem to take them personally, or view them as a campaign of harrassment, as can be seen from the documents recently made available.
It seems to me that, in the first instance, if Rother District Council had not demanded full names and addresses, rather than treating email addresses as legitimate addresses for correspondence (as per the guidance), they would not have received as much attention as they have (as a member of the WhatDoTheyKnow team pointed out).
Nor does there seem to be any reason to seek to prevent publication on the WhatDoTheyKnow website, other than to ensure interested members of the public have to make individual requests for information they are interested in. Surely the problem here is threefold:
- The inconvenience to the members of the public;
- The inconvenience and added costs to the FOIA people at the council;
- The impression that there is a concerted campaign because of the number of requests of information about one or two particular things.
It seems rather counterproductive, let alone against the spirit of Freedom of Information.
Well, the Information Commissioner’s Office has sent Rother District Council some guidance (2.2 Mb PDF) and they have agreed to abide by it. So we shall see what happens.
There is massive support among election officials in England for a ban on the sale of voters’ personal data to direct mail companies, a survey has found.
The Local Government Association poll of more than 200 administrators found 98% supported an end to the practice.
Voters can opt out of the roll sold to firms, but the Information Commissioner has recommended an outright ban.
The Direct Marketing Association said the lists were used mainly to verify details rather than to gather names.
The LGA said that far from being a significant earner, councils made on average just £2,000 a year from sales.
One wonders why they bother!