The white heat of public outrage is crisping this sham:
The launch of the Government’s flagship database of every child living in England has been delayed just days after The Daily Telegraph exposed serious concerns about its purpose.
ContactPoint will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under-18s in the country, as well as detailed information on their parents, GPs and schools.
It was announced in the wake of the murder of Victoria Climbié as a way to protect children by connecting the different services dealing with them, but this newspaper discovered that it will actually be used by police to hunt for evidence of crime.
The £224million computer system was meant to come into operation in April 2008 but was delayed following the loss of data discs containing 25 million child benefit records by HM Revenue & Customs last year, which triggered fears that ContactPoint records could easily find their way into the hands of paedophiles.
A review of its security – which the Government refused to publish in full – found the risk of a data breach could never be eliminated and the launch of ContactPoint was pushed back to October.
Now, just weeks before its planned launch and days after the Telegraph disclosed concerns that it will be used to increase the criminalisation and surveillance of England’s youth, ministers have announced that ContactPoint will not become operational until the New Year at the earliest.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families claimed that the new delay was not down to security or privacy fears, however, but simply because of “glitches” that had emerged during testing of the system, which is being built by the IT firm CapGemini.
The children’s minister, Kevin Brennan, told fellow MPs: “We have identified some issues as a result of recent system tests which we are working urgently to address.
“I have therefore taken a decision today to postpone deployment until January 2009 to allow sufficient time to continue to test the system.”
However opposition MPs said the Government should now take the opportunity to scrap the whole project.
The Shadow Families Minister, Maria Miller, said: “We repeatedly warned the Government of the problems with ContactPoint but they pressed ahead regardless, ignoring our calls to allow time to sort them out.
“There were clear indications in February of significant security concerns with this database. Only now, with just weeks to go until the project is supposed to go live, have they finally agreed to pull back to try to iron out some of the problems. Ministers now need to come clean and confirm whether this delay is because children’s personal information is at risk.”
The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Children, Schools and Families Secretary, David Laws, added: “Instead of delaying the launch of the database, this intrusive project must be scrapped altogether.
“A recent independent review has already undermined all of the Government’s assurances that the database will be secure. The discovery of further technical issues does not bode well for the future.
“The Government has proven itself untrustworthy with large databases containing sensitive data. Parents have every right to demand that their children’s personal details are not put at risk.”
If it is scrapped, (and it should be because ContactPoint can never be made secure) then the same reasons why it is being scrapped will apply to the rationale behind scrapping of the NIR and the ID Card.
No database can ever be secured. Once the data gets out, it is out forever. Internal leaks are a great hazard, and most of the biggest data escapes have been from this source, like the DVDR posted in the post and LOST, containing the personal details of 25 million children and parents.
This submission has a good summary of these risks, and why databases can never be secured.
The fact of the matter is if children need to be protected from paedophiles by not implementing ContactPoint, then the rest of the population should also be protected from identity thieves, stalkers, rapists, and every other sort of criminal that will be willing to pay millions for access to the NIR data. Of course, all of these correct objections are completely separate from the moral objections that are to do with children not being the property of the state, privacy, liberty and all the rest.
I am getting a sense that this is a step too far for the mild mannered, infinitely patient Great British Public™; that the reaction of the public has been violently antagonistic to ContactPoint, and ministers have been feeling the incandescent rage of anyone they encounter who knows about this abominable system. Even a rabid dog knows when to turn tail and flee when it is confronted by its own destruction, and it may be the case that Neu Labor is that rabid dog when it comes to ContactPoint.
It should not be long before the same reasoning is applied to the NIR and ID Cards and then the whole identity sham will come down on them.