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June 27, 2006 permalink
Here is an article about a system to keep tabs on every child in Britain. It's not too likely they will purge the database once kids reach age of majority. In Canada, such a system seems to be in existence already, but without public announcement.
The Age (Australia)
UK outrage as Big Brother keeps an eye on kids
Sarah Womack, London, June 27, 2006
BRITISH Government plans for the surveillance of all children, including information on whether they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, have been condemned as a Big Brother system.
Experts say it is the biggest state intrusion into the role of parents in history.
Changes are being introduced after the death of a girl from abuse. They include a database tracking all 12 million children in England and Wales from birth.
The Government expects the program to be operating within two years.
But critics say the electronic files will undermine family privacy and destroy the confidentiality of medical, social work and legal records.
Doctors, schools and the police will have to alert the database to a wide range of "concerns". Two warning flags on a child's record could start an investigation.
There will also be a system of targets and performance indicators for children's development. Children's services have been told to work together to make sure targets are met.
Child-care academics, practitioners and policy experts attending a conference at the London School of Economics will express concern about how the system will work.
Dr Eileen Munro, an expert on child protection, said that if a child caused concern by failing to make progress towards state targets, detailed information would be gathered.
That would include subjective judgements such as "is the parent providing a positive role model?", as well as sensitive information such as a parent's mental health.
"They include consuming five portions of fruit and veg a day, which I am baffled how they will measure," she said. "The country is moving from the traditional 'parents are free to bring children up as they think best as long as they are not abusive or neglectful' to a more coercive 'parents must bring children up to conform to the state's views of what is best'."
The Children Act 2004 gave the Government the powers to create the database.
The potential for investigations by social services or the police into thousands of children and their families for "innocuous" reasons has alarmed many experts.
"When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, is it necessary to keep building bigger haystacks?" said Jonathan Bamford, the assistant commissioner at the Information Commissioner's office.
Keeping check on 12 million children, when the justification for the database was that 3 million or 4 million were in some way "at risk", was "not proportionate", he said.
Source: The Age