Sunday, May 21, 2006

Databases and human fallibility

Although tangential to the children’s database, the following news story demonstrates the truism that a system is only as accurate as its operators:

Nearly 1,500 people have been wrongly labelled as criminals by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), it has emerged. The Mail on Sunday said the mistakes had led to some people being turned down for jobs or university places.

The Home Office said the errors arose when personal details were similar to those of people with a conviction, but were "a tiny proportion of cases". It said 90% of disputes were resolved within 21 days and, while errors were regrettable, it would not apologise.

The choice of adjective must seem rather ‘regrettable’ to those affected, too – particularly to the 10% whose ‘disputes’ were not resolved within 3 weeks.

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