Feeds

UK.gov urged to rethink education super-database

Wrong approach to student single ID?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

UK plans to build an education super-database in which everyone from age 14 is given a single ID number should be put on hold, according to a collection of academics, businessmen and local government officials.

In a letter sent the House of Lords Science and Technology committee, the 12 individuals, who come from, among others, Cambridge University, BT, Sunderland City Council and Virgin Mobile, have argued that the Department for Education and Skills should delay awarding the contract later this month because it is approaching the whole issue from the wrong direction.

The “Managing Information Across Partners” (MIAP) programme (www.miap.gov.uk) is an attempt to link all schools, colleges, training providers and universities across the UK to one database and so save on duplication costs.

But this requires the DfES to build and run a single super-database and that is the wrong approach, the letter warns. Instead of storing all the information in one central location (with the DfES deciding who can access what), it should be up to individuals themselves to supply their information, the letter argues.

The analogy is showing your exam certificates to an employer or your driving licence to a car-hire company, rather than have those companies go direct to government for proof.

But the discussion has broader overtones in that it asks central government to accept a new philosophy of interacting with its citizens through accepted third-parties rather than build its own store of information.

The company that has been pushing this concept unsuccessfully for a number of years, Edentity, also argues that while a central database may be suitable for a project such as the proposed national ID card scheme, for the DfES to take the same approach alters the autonomous relationship that colleges and universities traditionally enjoy.

Since supplying information such as qualifications is a positive action (instead of, say, withholding a criminal record), a system where the individual has control of that information is more logical and avoids the pitfalls of a central database such as privacy concerns and a single point of failure, Edentity argues.

But the DfES remains concerned about the potential for abuse. How can it be sure that people are who they say they are? Can it rely on third-parties to run proper checks?

Problems with the “Personal Information Brokerage” approach are not yet ironed out but so many things have changed during the four-year consultation process, the argument goes, that it may be best to hold off building the new database until all options can be looked at afresh.

More people are connected to computer networks than ever before. There are new computer standards designed specifically for identity (one, Cardspace, comes as standard with Windows Vista). And then there is the recent chequered history of government departments running central databases - only this month the Home Office was embarrassed to find it had failed to add 27,500 criminal files to its database.

Is a third-party broker approach a better solution? Possibly, possibly not. But the argument is that it is worth having a second look before going down a single route.®

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.