Is an (inaccurate) national adress database a treat to privacy and sometimes personal security?

Ian Mason ukcrypto at
Mon Dec 6 14:52:40 GMT 2010

On 6 Dec 2010, at 08:53, Mary Hawking wrote:

> There was a good deal of discussion when PDS (the Personal  
> Demographics Service 
>  ) was introduced in the NHS on the risks that it could pose to  
> people with good reason to conceal their addresses and contact  
> details, including groups such as those with abusive ex-partners or  
> families and anyone with a connection to Huntingdon Life Sciences.
> There is a means of withholding the demographics which might locate  
> you (see Access and Security): the back office still holds the  
> details but they are not displayed.
> Does anyone know whether there are intended to be facilities for  
> similar withholding of details in this new database, and do these  
> exist in the databases (thought by commentators on the article to be  
> highly inaccurate anyway) to be used to populate the new database,  
> and if so, will they be carried into the new system?
> PDS declarations of “vulnerability” were not carried forward into  
> the Children’s Database, and AFAIAA there were no mechanisms for  
> requesting withholding of contact details.
> Mary Hawking

I think there's some misunderstanding here. As I understand it, this  
new announcement concerns a database of just addresses, not people's  
addresses. That is, it's like the Postcode Address File (PAF), a way  
to validate an address and ensure that it's used in one correct form.  
In itself it does nothing other than show that an address exists, not  
who lives there or what that address is used for.

Omitting entries from such a database might be more of a security risk  
than listing them - their very omission makes them 'interesting'. For  
typical addresses with a building number it would be trivial to  
extract a list of omitted addresses. e.g. If there was a No. 5 and No.  
7 Acacia Avenue then the absence of No. 6 from the database is  
interesting, suspicious or probative depending on your intent. A  
geographically targeted search could find 'missing' properties in an  
area where you suspected that your ex-wife, government minister, MI5  
safe house or whatever was resident.


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