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Can I Object to Data on National Children's Database?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 20 Mar 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Database Children Contactpoint National

Q.Can you explain to me how the establishment of the National Children's Database by the government is compatible with the right to privacy and data protection?  In a commercial environment consent is required to use individual data and as a Compliance Officer I spend a lot of time ensuring that our sales people obtain this consent (I insist on opt-in) and then trying to protect that data.

I'm absolutely livid that my children's location, school and much other information including medical data I believe, has simply been taken by the Government and put onto a large database, without any consent or opportunity to opt out. 

What can I do to recover my children's privacy and ensure they are protected?  I have written to my MP and Michael Gove as shadow minister for family (or something...).  Is the only way to go to the European Court?

(D.T, 10 February 2009)

A.

The National Children’s Database

The government’s National Database of Children – formally called the ContactPoint Database – was finally launched in January 2009. The intention is to provide a single point of reference for professionals working with children. The idea of a single database was formulated in the wake of the Victoria Climbié abuse scandal after which it was concluded that the failure by those working with children to share information made children more vulnerable to abuse.

The database allocates a unique number to each child and contains their name, date of birth, gender and address. The information is held until children reach the age of 18. The database also contains the name and contact details of the child’s parents or carers and of their school and GP.

The National Children’s Database and Data Protection Issues

The database is intended to be a secure online resource to protect the safety of all children. Additional restrictions will be placed on access to any information held which is of a sensitive nature – such as that regarding treatment for mental or sexual health issues. However, with numerous incidents of public bodies losing sensitive information about members of the public there is, naturally, particular concern where children’s personal information is being held.

The fear is that the database could have the opposite effect to its intended purpose – exposing children to harm rather than protecting them. Parents and commentators question how secure such a database can be. These fears were compounded when it was announced that some information about the children of celebrities would be withheld. This throws into doubt how secure the system really is and, in any event, compromises the concept of a single, comprehensive database. Child care professionals have been amongst those who have criticised the database and suggested that it will open children to the threat of abuse.

Bringing a Legal Claim in Respect of the National Children’s Database

Much of the information contained on the Children’s Database was already held on record by various public or private institutions and would have been accessible by socials services anyway – the Database simply makes it easier for them to gather all the information they might need.

The Database was designed to be compliant with Data Protection and Human Rights laws. However, a challenge to the legality of the Database could be made in the courts of the United Kingdom under the Data Protection Act if, for example, the information held was incorrect or if damage or distress had been caused to a child due to breaches of the Data Protection Act.

A claim under Human Rights law can also be made in the UK courts for any alleged breach of the Human Rights Act which took place after October 2000. The claim would have to show that the individual in question had been affected, or was at risk of being affected, by a public authority’s breach of human rights law.

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