This is the kind of story that fuels my worries about the database state we in the UK are walking into.  The Guardian reports that The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has examined a sample of 46 UK government databases and found significant issues (Right to privacy broken by a quarter of UK’s public databases, says report).

46 databases, including the new ID card database and the DNA fingerprint database were examined to see whether they met standards of privacy and effectiveness,  Of these, 11 were found to be so failing they should be scrapped.

The report, Database State by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, says that more than half of Whitehall’s 46 databases and systems have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness, and could fall foul of a legal challenge.

Only six of the 46 systems, including those for fingerprinting and TV licensing, get a "green light" for being effective, proportionate, necessary and established – with a legal basis to guarantee against privacy intrusions. But even some of these databases have operational problems.

The report classifies 29 databases as "amber" – meaning they have a variety of problems including possible illegality, and from which opt-out options should be made available.  Examples of this set are the NHS summary care record, the national childhood obesity database, the national pupil database, and the automatic number-plate recognition system

The Rowntree report says databases given an "amber" light should be assessed for their impact on privacy. Sensitive personal information should normally only be collected and shared with the subject’s consent; and datasharing occur only in strictly defined circumstances. "The UK needs information systems that support citizens and professionals on a human scale, rather than multi-billion pound centralised databases used to stigmatise and snoop," said the report’s co-author, Ian Brown, of the Oxford Internet Institute. 

I am greatly relieved that the infamous clause 152 of the Coroner’s Bill has been removed – this would have given government ministers authority to permit the linkage and sharing of data between databases, which must surely have compounded the problems identified by the Rowntree Trust.

The Guardian article flags up two of the most contentious databases – the ID Card database and the DNA fingerprint database for particular concern.  In the cas eof the latter, the Government is still fighting a rear-guard action to resist deleting DNA record of indivuduals who’ve not been convicted of an offence.

Of course, increasingly draconian monitoring and database use by the Government is driven thtough on the back of raised fears  of terrorist attack.  I notice that the Government has continued to press issues of imminent al-Qaeda  attacks in the news (BBC News – Thousands getting terror training)  – in that report, our authoritarian Home Secretary (herself a great fan of absurdly expensive and intrusive databases such as the IMP communication snooping database) "Wacky" Jacqui Smith is quoted as saying:

[..] an attack was "highly likely" but stressed the UK was "much better" at identifying threats, particularly international ones, and foiling them than in the past.  

Actually, the records show that terrorist attacks are actually quite rare, particularly by Islamic groups acting within the UK (Terrorism: real threat or political bogeyman?).