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UK pushes token security line on child database

Balls promise on ContactPoint

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The British government is bending over backwards to try and calm fears that a new database of every child in the country will inevitably go the way of HMRC's child benefit database when it goes live next year.

ContactPoint will feature name, address, gender, date of birth, and a unique number for every child in the country, as well as basic identifying information about parents or carers. It will also feature details, including school and doctor, of all organisations "involved" with the child.

The planned database has already sparked concern, both that it will amount to a national ID registry in training, and that it will provide malefactors with unparalleled access to details on children, particularly the most vulnerable. In the wake of the HMRC debacle, the LibDems have called for the database to be encrypted.

As soon as the HMRC debacle broke last week, Ed Balls, secretary of children, schools and families moved to try and assuage fears over ContactPoint saying the department was reviewing its security strategy for the database.

But given that the entire government is supposed to be reviewing its data protection measures, this doesn't mean any special measures for the child database.

However, that didn't stop the department pushing the point again, with The Independent this weekend reiterating Balls' plan to do what the whole government is supposed to be doing anyway.

Today, a spokesperson for the department reiterated the existing security structure for the database. This will include a two stage authentication process, consisting of a password and a random number generating token.

The spokesperson said only cleared personnel subject to the highest level of Criminal Records Bureau check would be able to access the database.

Asked what the department would be doing to ensure that no one inadvertently downloads the whole database, he said there would be very strict access control. Users would only be allowed to view the records of children they are working with, he added.

All of which the department has said before, of course.

However, that will offer little assurance to critics of the scheme, either because they question the need for the database at all, regard it as simply a national ID database by stealth, or because they suspect that even the most stringent security procedures have a habit of being circumvented – just this once - when it helps senior management keep a lid on costs. ®

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