Lunaya Pravda

22 May 2006

We make no apology for screwing you

Mix-up brands innocent citizens as criminals

The British government, already under pressure over a series of blunders in its immigration and prison services, has confirmed it wrongly branded around 1,500 innocent people as criminals due to a computer mix-up.

It said the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), which carries out checks on people who have applied for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults, had confused the innocent people with convicted criminals because they had similar or identical names.

The names were stored on a police database....

"We make no apology for erring on the side of caution. We are talking about the protection of children and vulnerable adults," a Home Office spokesman said.

So (not surprisingly) no apology is offered for screwing over innocent, vulnerable job applicants. Sorry, but the CRB didn't err on the side of caution - it simply erred. Big-time. The CRB has just as much obligation to the job applicants as it has to those more vulnerable citizens it's supposedly trying to protect. A greater obligation, actually, when one accounts for the tax dollars those job applicants provide to fund such a service.

How much more evidence condemning the idea of government-controlled national databases is necessary before people stop believing that this time there will be no mistakes? These kinds of people-tracking services are NEVER mistake-free, not even in the private sector where quality is often notably better than government performance.

What really ticks me off is the complete lack of apology combined with a glaring absence of acknowledgment of the possibility that other errors were made. You know, the kind of errors that would, say, put a child molester to work at an elementary school. Unstated is the admission of bad data and data handling policies, and the simultaneous insistence that the CRB's performance is A-okay. Again, none of this is astonishing, but that doesn't remedy the irksome level of smug incompetence wrapped up in one little quote.

The government is here to screw protect us. Now was it wearing a condom when we all grabbed our ankles?

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