Monday, June 18, 2007 

If there's one thing we need, it's more databases.

If there's one thing that can be said about this government, it's that it's so bloody-minded that it will just not recognise that it simply cannot do anything to do with IT right. You've got to admire that sort of obnoxious stubbornness.

After disasters involving the IT system which junior doctors submitted their application for jobs to, which it transpired was so insecure that anyone who had access to it could look at anyone's information simply by tapping in their profile number, the continuing debacle of the new IT system for the NHS, currently coming in at a cost of around £12.4bn, and the criminal records bureau fiasco, any government other than this one would probably think twice about going ahead with any other highly ambitious IT programmes involving incredibly sensitive information. This though is New Labour, and there is no reverse gear.

It at least has to be said that the motives behind the "ContactPoint" database are honourable, something which can't be said about the ID card scheme which is being cooked (cocked?) up as we speak. The shocking nature of the Victoria Climbié case, and the failings of the local social services to act is a good an impetus as any.

The report in today's Guardian then makes for ominous reading. Not only are 330,000 people going to have access to it, but it's going to be open from the internet. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Well, it's OK, because they're asking people not to access it from internet cafes or public reception areas. Additionally, it will have a two-part security authentication system, which I sure hope doesn't mean login and password plus captcha.

It doesn't take a genius to realise, putting aside the concerns about snooping, that this is likely to be a hot target for identity thieves. The tax credits scheme has already been infiltrated by such people, and with the whole thing being wide open rather than internal network-based, it's only going to further encourage such attempts to break in. All in all, it's shaping up to make the NHS IT scheme look like a storm in a teacup.

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