Monday, 29 December 2008

Raising public awareness of ContactPoint

Given the scale [and cost - £224m!] of the ContactPoint project, I have been surprised that it has received so little attention from both politicians and the press. This database will hold not only the details of every child under the age of 18 in the country, but also the name, address and telephone number of every parent. However, I am yet to meet anyone who has even heard of ContactPoint.

Thus the decision by The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to launch a publicity campaign to let families know how much information on them will be held by ContactPoint is to be applauded [See Daily Telegraph 27/12/2008]. There needs to be greater public awareness of this project so that it receives the appropriate amount of public and political scrutiny.

However, it would appear that Kensington and Chelsea are going further than just a publicity campaign, for they seem to be proposing to extend the facility to shield the data of vulnerable children to any parents who put in a request so to do. Thus, the child's name, date of birth, gender and unique ID number would still be visible on ContactPoint but other details would be hidden. This begs the question why this can't be the norm for all children. If the database will work for the most vulnerable children on a limited amount of data, why can't all of our data be hidden?

For more on ContactPoint see the Every Child Matters Website.
See also previous blog entry ContactPoint and Schools


  1. Dear Mark,

    Isn't there a broader issue that so many of our students are leaving themselves vulnerable to data abuse, given the vast array of information they leave openly available online?

    I caution all of my Media students to be wary of posting information, language, and imagery that they may come to regret in later life. Indeed, given the fact that increasingly universities are scrutinising Facebook et al, the nasty shock may be sooner in its arrival than many teenagers suspect.

    In addition, many people are surprised how easy it is to access electoral rolls and telephone directories for little or no cost. We are one of the most heavily observed societies in the Western world.

    The Digital Natives of today have very different views of privacy than we do.

    How do you think schools should react to this constant erosion of our right to be left alone, given the socio-political pressures to know where any one person is at any particular time?


  2. This is a topic which is tackled in Born Digital at great length and is one that we, as teachers, need to discuss with young people in the spirit of dialogue. What surprises me is that some young people are very streetwise when it comes to internet safety, but some are all too willing to divulge too much information on unprotected sites.
    It is easily done, when I first started using Facebook, I put all sorts of information on the site, including my mobile phone number etc, but it seemed to make sense at the time as my Facebook "friends" at that time were all good friends who probably had [or were welcome to] my mobile number. However, over time, the way in which I use Facebook has changed, so, like the digital youth, I have passing acquaintances as "friends" too. Hence my mobile number is there no longer and I now use a restricted profile for many contacts.