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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.
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    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Big Brother knows all about you

    I was interested to read the lead story in the December Information World Review, 'Government set to transform info'. So interested that I have emailed them suggesting that they do a much longer, investigative piece. Especially, as I then noted a story in the Daily Telegraph, "New database to hold details on every child" ... so it starts!

    It all sounds quite bland, especially as half the IWR article is about the digitising of old birth certificates, but the sharing of information is big issue, the subject of a consultation a couple of years ago by the Lord Chamberlain's Dept/Department of Constitutional Affairs, and of real concern with respect to data protection issues. The consultation process involved interested bodies (e.g. CILIP and the man and woman in the street), and we were told that our concerns would be noted but not necessarily acted upon!

    The issue is whether we - the public - want to have our not necessarily correctly-keyed or stored information shared between departments. Should the NHS have access to police records? Or the police to medical records? Or should the social services and the passport office and the DVLC share? (Its hard enough getting a dentist appointment without being refused one because I have a parking ticket!) What if my record - as so often happens with credit-check information - contains a wrong post code, which happens to be that of a known child molester? Now this is no longer just an error in a medical record but the police beating at my door. You see what I mean?

    The issue is that there should be checks in place that enable citizens to check the accuracy of data at no cost to themselves. And will this happen: No! In fact I doubt that even the most fundamental issue - the transparency of the system so that everyone knows (a) what information is held on them by whom and (b) with whom it is shared is in place.

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