Comment: Databases Should Record Who Alters Information, Says BCS Speaker

People who create, modify or delete data should have their actions recorded and linked with the outcome to help tackle the problem of illegal or inappropriate alterations to databases.

That's according to renowned computer scientist Charlie Bachman who is due to give a lecture on the evolution of database technology to the BCS Data Management Specialist Group on 21 October at BCS' Southampton Street offices, London. The event is being jointly hosted with the UK Chapter of the Data Management Association (DAMA) International.

He says: "I believe in and have recommended that the person, or persons involved in the creation, modification, or deletion of data should be recorded and that record associated with the data of their creation. Their authorship should be recorded along with the data so that others can observe who the author(s) are and evaluate the authorship appropriately. Some transactions or edits might require a dual authorship to authorize changes."

He adds: "User id and password protection against unauthorized access might be extended to protect against unauthorized updates, along with the publicising of the authorizing user."

His comments echo a recent BCS report Building Trust in eGovernment, which recommends that the original collector of personal data has ongoing responsibility for accuracy of that data when it is shared.

Mr Bachman a distinguished BCS Fellow, developed the first network database management systems while at General Electric during the early 1960s. With Weyerhaeuser Lumber he developed the first multiprogramming access to the IDS database and worked on the "dataBasic" product that offered database support to the Basic Language timesharing users.

Merging new application systems with existing ones will remain the predominant problem of database management for as long as there are databases, he believes: "The biggest challenge of yesterday, today and tomorrow will be integrating that new application system with all of the existing application systems.

"The choice of "off-the-shelf" application systems versus "bespoke" applications is very much affected by the ability to get an off-the-shelf application fitting the business requirement and the degree that the new application is central to the business or organization's view of itself in its world."

The London event will also look at how database technology could evolve in the future, including database browsers which work in ways similar to internet ones, the ability to spontaneously record observations of new binary relationships between records, and the integration of programming and database languages to ease the movement of information between differently-created systems.

Separately, Mr Bachman will also be speaking to members of the BCS Computer Conservation Society (CCS) at the Science Museum, London, on Thursday 16 October.