Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A road by any other name - musings on the database society 

It isn’t as important an issue as the DNA database errors noted by Lynne, but the odd glitch I came across when my son moved house does illustrate part of the problems of the emerging database ‘snoop and categorise’ society.

My son e-mailed me his new university address but not the postcode. I looked up the street on the online maps services –and nothing turned up. Tried various alternative spellings and finally one popped up showing his road with the alternative spelling for the name.

Thing is, my son spelled it right first time. It is an error that has crept into some database and been picked up by seemingly all the online map services. Including the one you get when you click the Brighton Council website for a map of the city.

Asking around, it seems this is not an unique problem.

So how does anyone correct this globalised error now that it entrenched in some database? Will the mis-spelled name start to become the ‘real’ one? Will my son have problems if he gives his correct address but some official or law-enforcement or financial database search fail to make a match? How about the emergency services? As I said not itself at the moment an earth-shattering problem, but something to think about before plunging into Universal Identity Databases..

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