Reply to post: Open note to Gracie Mae Bradley

Blighty's National Pupil Database has been used to control immigration

David Pollard
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Open note to Gracie Mae Bradley

Madam,

You are quoted thus: Against Borders for Children co-founder Gracie Mae Bradley added: "There is still time to resist this divisive and risky scheme".

The time for action was back at the turn of the last century, when realisations of Blair-Blunkett-Straw control-freakery were being dreamed up and then implemented. The 'Every Child Matters' scheme set out to provide multiple government agencies with access to all data held about children. One particularly ghastly part of the programme, RYOGENS, had been promoted with claims that it could predict criminality,

A good account was provided by Ross Anderson and colleagues at the Foundation for Information Policy Research, back in 2005/6.

http://www.fipr.org/childrens_databases.pdf

It won't do much good for schools not to record details of nationality. Firstly in most cases this information is likely to be easily gleaned elsewhere. Secondly, it's racial prejudice that is the problem, not a particular child's nationality. Hiding details of nationality may hide the prejudice, but if fails to deal with it.

What is required is to have the software that is used to run the child databases open to public inspection and likewise to have the uses - who accessed that data, when and why - reliably logged, appropriately inspected and open to magisterial enquiry. Neutral and trustworthy judges, high-level civil servants and similar public figures are probably rather thin on the ground, those with an understanding of technology even more so, but their scrutiny is what's needed. Clearly it's not appropriate to make confidential information publicly available, but, equally clearly, appropriate methods are needed to ensure that when government bodies hold such information it is handled in a manner which is democratically accountable.

The opportunity to oppose computerised collation of data, if ever there was one, passed by long ago. What we must try to do now is to ensure that the technology is used wisely.

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