Long live the database state

The FIPR Alerts service has just drawn my attention to an excellent article in Prospect headlined; “Long linve the database state: smarter use of public service statistics can save lives as well as money. But anxious civil libertarians want to stop the state sharing our personal records. They must not succeed. ” 

The article is rather better than the headline but the polarisation of debate on data protection and freedom of information with lack of attention to the practical disciplines of information governance is most unhelpful.


Is the data entered and checked by those with a vested interest in its accuracy, rather than its use for performance measurement or resource allocation? Do those who should have access actually have timely and accurate access to data that is fit for purpose – and not just secure?  Is clear guidance available for those running the systems as to who should have access, who should not, and how to tell the difference?


The disparate and conflicting attitudes and assumptions of the data protection, information assurance and information sharing industries are a large part of the problem. Bringing them together to agree guidance material that ordinary human beings can understand is easier said than done.


The Basic Principles sub-group of the EURIM Information Governance group was tasked earlier this year to try. Their attempts are on the EURIM website. But they came to the conclusion that it would be better to organise a public competition for film and multi-media students to produce short YouTube compatible presentations.


EURIM is now working with the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing on a competition for their students and others. The key “prize” will be the opportunity for some of the UK’s most creative students to demonstrate their skills in conveying complex messages.

The competition should be ready for launch at the start of the Autumn term – by which time the EURIM sub-groups looking at Security by Design and Value of Information should also have reported.