Shaggy dog story

August 29, 2007

In 2003, we had a spate of phone calls from journalists wanting comments on new curfew powers that had come into force. “It’s a bit late to do anything now,” we said, “but you might want to hear about the Sexual Offences Bill that will make kissing between teenagers a criminal offence?” No response.

In 2004, we had a spate of phone calls from journalists to ask if it was true that two teenagers kissing each other was now a criminal offence. “Yes,” we said, “but it’s too late to do anything now. You might want to hear about the plans to create a national database of children, though…” “We’ll ring you back,” they said.

In 2007, we had a spate of phone calls etc “Where were you a couple of months ago, when something could actually have been done?” We asked. “How come 4 years of press releases, reports and phone calls have barely raised a mention? But perhaps you would like to know about the plans to create a second national database that will contain a lot more than names and phone numbers?” It’s gone very quiet suddenly.


More haste, less speed

August 20, 2007

In their unseemly haste to get the Contactpoint regulations through before anyone noticed, the government appears to have overlooked a few things. the Association of Directors of Children’s Services have spelled them out in a letter to the Contactpoint Project Director (pdf).

Amongst other things:

‘If there is any incidence of system abuse or misuse and a CRB check has shown that the employee did have some convictions, but the employer nevertheless employed or continued to employ the person, the local authority in question will be in the position of having no control over the person having access to ContactPoint.’

Councils also appear to be in the position of not being able to comply with the Data Protection Act:

‘local authorities are being given the task of “Data Controller” under the relevant legislation, without having the necessary ability to control data accuracy, criteria for access, data matching, security and so on.’

It doesn’t exactly bode well: the project is barely off the ground and the problems have started already.

Dilbert on procurement

August 13, 2007

Seems as if Dilbert is getting the hang of bidding for public sector contracts. (Thanks Ian!)

SitH (11)

August 13, 2007

Missed this one over the weekend:

Police chiefs have launched a major investigation after the theft of a computer database containing thousands of top-secret mobile phone records from terrorism and organised crime investigations.

…Forensic Telecommunications Services, whose clients include Scotland Yard, The Police Service of Northern Ireland, HM Revenue and Customs and the Crown Prosecution Service, specialises in tapping mobile phone calls made by criminal suspects. The stolen security-protected server contained the minutiae of phone calls it had screened, including the identity of the person who had made the call, as well as the exact time and location of the suspect when the call was made.

SitH (10)

August 9, 2007

So much for the new NOMS system:

Spiralling costs have prompted an urgent review of the government’s new end-to-end National Offender Management Service database, it has been revealed.

The original estimate for the EDS-built system was £234m, but unions reckon that with £155m already spent the project will come in at £950m. The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) yesterday described the project as “close to collapse”.

The estimate for Contactpoint is £224m and for the new national eCAF database a mere £44.5m over 6 years. No, we don’t believe it either.

New excuse needed

August 3, 2007

Throughout the school fingerprints saga, the companies that market biometric systems have persisted in saying that a child’s fingerprint cannot be reconstructed from the template stored on, say, a school library system (as if that alone can refute the many other arguments!)

Now it looks as if even that shroud has been blown away. If you’re techie-inclined, take a look at this paper: From Template to Image: Reconstructing Fingerprints from Minutiae Points (pdf)

If even the title makes your brain hurt, here’s the relevant bit from the abstract:

Most fingerprint-based biometric systems store the minutiae template of a user in the database. It has been traditionally
assumed that the minutiae template of a user does not reveal any information about the original fingerprint. In this paper, we challenge this notion and show that three levels of information about the parent fingerprint can be elicited from the minutiae template alone…

HT: Kim Cameron

Beyond eCAF

August 2, 2007

Over on the Capita site, we have the ‘Single Child Record’ complete with a diagram to demonstrate ‘Education, Social Care and CAF on a single database giving one view of the child’

All it needs to complete the picture is health records. Oh, hang on….