Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The importance of quality control and data maintenance in databases

Maintaining and updating a database

Expunged criminal records and back ground checks:
".. enormous commercial databases are fast undoing the societal bargain of expungement, one that used to give people who had committed minor crimes a clean slate and a fresh start.

Most states seal at least some records of juvenile offenses. Many states also allow adults arrested for or convicted of minor crimes like possessing marijuana, shoplifting or disorderly conduct to ask a judge, sometimes after a certain amount of time has passed without further trouble, to expunge their records. If the judge agrees, the records are destroyed or sealed.

But real expungement is becoming significantly harder to accomplish in the electronic age. Records once held only in paper form by law enforcement agencies, courts and corrections departments are now routinely digitized and sold in bulk to the private sector. Some commercial databases now contain more than 100 million criminal records. They are updated only fitfully, and expunged records now often turn up in criminal background checks ordered by employers and landlords.

Thomas A. Wilder, the district clerk for Tarrant County in Fort Worth, said he had received harsh criticism for refusing, on principle, to sell criminal history records in bulk.

“How the hell do I expunge anything,” Mr. Wilder asked, “if I sell tapes and disks all over the country?”.."

New York Time, October 18, 2006

Biological databases.

On October 17, I found this entry of a biological specimen on Rod Pages semant blog, which was out in the sea (ants are no fish). I reported the error, and wonder how long it will take to clean it up.
Wouldn't it be much more helpful, if there would be a direct feedback mechanism, so that such errors could be corrected rountinely?


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