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Only one government department has system for correcting database errors

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:54 pm on 1 February, 2009.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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[Hat tip: UK Liberty]

Part of the danger from the database state is that as more and more aspects of life become dependent on data held by the state being used to decide how people are treated, errors in that data will lead to more and more people being mistreated as a result. A government that was sensitive to this issue would be ensuring that personal data is secured and as accurate as possible.

The British government’s record on securing personal data is lamentable. Now, so it seems is its record on ensuring the accuracy of its data. From www.publicservice.co.uk:

All but one government department has no system in place to correct data errors, an investigation has revealed.

Tom Ilube, the chief executive of the identity management company Garlik, revealed that just one department has a procedure in place to correct errors within its databases. Ilube discovered this after submitting a Freedom of Information request to each central government department asking if they have a system in place to correct data errors.

The education watchdog Ofsted is the only organisation to get a clean bill of health, with major government departments like the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health admitting to no procedure in place.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “When you see it written down in department after department, ‘no we haven’t been audited, no we don’t have any written policies, no we don’t have a budget, no there are no statistical information,’ it does take you aback.

“What it says to me is that these departments are not taking looking after personal information seriously. [Government is] really getting to dangerous levels of complacency in [its] ability to look after our personal information.”

Yet this government proposes to enable wide spread sharing of personal data to achieve policy objectives, thus magnifying the impact such errors will have. They should concentrate instead on securing and validating the data they currently collect.

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