Feeds

UK.gov: You didn't trust us with your ID, so we gave it to private biz

But the very next day, it gave it away

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

But think of the children, minister!

Monetising public data about the nation is a huge policy in Whitehall that could soon turn into a nightmarish bedtime story for Britain's kids.

Education Secretary Michael Gove did the seemingly impossible recently by opening up a public consultation on plans, in his words, "to share extracts of data held in the National Pupil Database (NPD) for a wider range of purposes than currently possible in order to maximise the value of this rich dataset".

One such usage cited would involve creating a private-sector market that would be able to offer "innovative tools and services which present anonymised versions of the data".

What this means in practice is that sensitive information held about children across Blighty could soon be in the hands of marketeers who want to extend their data-scraping exercises beyond the likes of Facebook, Google and other well-known free-content ad networks. It would now seem that even a child's school life including exam results, attendance, teacher assessments and even characteristics could soon be scrutinised in the same way.

The only trouble is hardly anyone has actually heard about it, and privacy campaigners had very little time to battle the proposals. The consultation has been and gone, very few questions were raised in Parliament about it, and a revision to the current regulation guarding the NPD could come as early as spring next year.

Meanwhile, the government has claimed that it had been in talks with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) over the course of 2012 regarding its proposed opening up of the school database to allow private companies to develop apps that would exploit the datasets.

Here's what Tory MP Edward Timpson told the House late last month:

Officials have discussed proposals to widen access to extracts of data from the national pupil database under strict terms and conditions with representatives from the Information Commissioner's Office on a number of occasions over the last year. Information Commissioner Office representatives have said that they would support in principle the release of data under controlled access, as long as a proper system of governance is in place.

It's a statement that drastically differs from the one your correspondent got from the ICO about Gove's proposals, however. I was told by a spokesman at the watchdog immediately after the plans were mentioned in Parliament in the autumn that the ICO had not been provided with information about the proposals before the announcement.

While the government is not legally required to speak to the commission about plans regarding the handling of data, the ICO spokesman noted at the time that as "the regulator of the legislation at play, it is in their interests for them to do so".

Ouch.

Do the hokey cokey and then turn around

Besides from the Queen's Jubilee and the London Olympics, 2012 will probably be remembered by many as the year when internet trolling went mainstream with idiots making "grossly offensive" comments online and wasting precious police time.

It will also be defined by the Leveson inquiry drama played out often by Hugh Grant, who was last seen ashen-faced in an Eastenders-style black taxi exit after Lord Leveson delivered his report on press ethics. The rather expensive inquiry concluded with the judge calling for independent regulation of British newspapers underpinned by legislation, only for Prime Minister David Cameron to pooh-pooh the idea and then get on with his day.

Meanwhile, as Jimmy Savile's name was shortened simply to 'im vile, the debate about child safety online reached its height by the end of the year with Cameron backing away from any plan to force telcos to introduce network-level filtering to block websites deemed to be inappropriate for the prying eyes of youngsters. Public consultation had shown there wasn't an "appetite" for such a plan. Finally, some common sense appeared to come out of Downing Street, with the PM recognising that the best people to counsel children about sex, monsters, and, well, sex monsters was probably their parents. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.