One of the UK's largest government contractors has created a database which contains the personal details of 8 million UK children, all without the knowledge or consent of their parents.
The newly uncovered secret computer network, known as the "One System", can apparently share children's personal information across different agencies in the United Kingdom.
According to the Sunday Times, the database was created by Capita, which is a company specializing in IT systems. Details of the information collected by the system includes the child's age, sex, examination results, bad behavior including absenteeism, whether they have special needs and even how many minutes late they are to lessons.
This information can then reportedly be shared with various agencies, including the NHS, the police, charities and child protection units, all without parental knowledge or consent. It is apparently up to teachers to collect the data on all children, and not just those deemed to be a problem or at risk.
Nick Pickles from the privacy advocate group, Big Brother Watch, told RT, “While information is absolutely essential to protect children, you need to collect information about children who are at risk and not every child.”
“The only reason they’ve designed this is about profit, it’s not about keeping children safe,” Pickles added.
Around two years ago, Contact Point, a similar database, was set up by the then-Labour government, but was scrapped by the current coalition due to security concerns. Now the One System is already employed by around 100 local authorities.
According to documents obtained by the Sunday Times, classroom information is gathered by teachers and then submitted to the One System up to six times a day. This is apparently to provide a "golden thread of data", that can then be accessed by anyone working with children.
A further aspect of the system is that the firm hires photographers to take photos of the schoolchildren, which are then offered for sale to their parents, before they are uploaded onto the database.
Records of 48,000 pupils are already stored on the Capita One Database in Swindon, southern England, and have been shared with local NHS health officials and with teams working with young offenders.
The Sunday Times reports that according to Capita, this data could be used to identify vulnerable children who may need support from social workers, but Pickles disagrees. He said, "Child protection cannot be delegated to an algorithm without local or individual knowledge of that child. Databases and computers remove human judgment.”
Pickles further argues that one of the main problems with the One System is the fact that it is not a centralized government system, and is therefore not consistent across schools. He also expressed concern that data, once on a database, “may be lost, stolen or misused.”