A brief word on the end of ContactPoint

While we were away the new Government enacted one the most important stages in its promised moves towards restoring privacy in Britain.

Child-computer At noon on Friday 6th August the ContactPoint database was switched off.

A £224 million system that contained the names, ages, addresses, schools, GPs and several other private and personal details of 11 million children in the UK, disappeared at the flick of a button.

In advance of the move, Children's Minister Tim Loughton – with whom we have not always seen eye-to-eye – voiced a number of our stated concerns when speaking to the BBC:

“We don’t think that spreading very thinly a resource which contains details of all 11million children in the entire country, more than 90 per cent of whom will never come into contact with children’s services, is the best way of safeguarding children.

"This is a surrogate ID card scheme for children, by the back door, and we just don’t think it’s necessary.”

But unsurprisingly (especially when it comes to the thorny issue of child safety) the critics have been out in force. While the NSPCC criticised the apparent lack of a replacement system, the shadow minister Delyth Morgan called the decision "short-sighted", and articles such as "Choosing data protection over child protection" in the Independent didn't help much either.

But while the critics try and strike fear into parents and children, the important thing to remember is that the system didn't work.

Deloitte's official (Whitehall sanctioned) report suggested young people could be put at "greater risk" by ContactPoint. FOI responses revealed that several councils had had massive trouble with the system, Surrey even describing at as "not stable". And the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust had labelled it "almost certainly illegal".

And that is before you consider that no parent, and perhaps more importantly, no child had ever been asked if they wanted to be put on the database in the first place.

The only thing worse than an unwieldy state database that opens up the personal details of millions of children, is one that is deeply flawed and dangerously unstable. Good riddance to ContactPoint.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted by on Aug 9, 2010 in Databases, Privacy | 3 Comments