Databases Portfolio Essay
Databases are ways of saving, storing, organizing and manipulating information. More and more companies and organizations are starting to use databases instead of paper based information. One of those organizations is the health organization. Hospitals and health center are starting to use databases to save information about patients without having to take so much space. “More than 100,000 people in Kent have been added to the DNA database in the last five years.
“[BBC] With the DNA of the people saved, it becomes easier to identify them and it helps solve lots of crimes and also father-ship issues for example determining who the son belongs to. However, there is a number of social and ethical issues associated with having the DNA of people saved in a Database on a computer. The ethical issue here is privacy; the DNA information might be viewed by unauthorized people. The social issue is Security, DNA and other medical information might be hacked into since it is on computer and can be used to blackmail certain individuals. Criterion B (the IT Background of the Issue)
A Database is a “collection” of information that is related and connected together through a common key stored in a computer. Databases make it much easier for the information to be accessed, saved and manipulated. They are basically tables that are connected together. Just like Excel spreadsheets, database tables have columns that have specific “attributes” and rows that “correspond to a single record”[About. com]. What makes database tables better than spreadsheets is that fact that information in database tables can be changed and “updated”[eHow]. Databases are differentiated according to their “model”.
Different database models function in different ways and are designed for different purposes. Earlier, in the 1980’s the database models used most were the ” hierarchical and network systems”. This hierarchical database model can be visualized as an “upside down tree of data”[the UK web design company] with one “root” table is at the top and the other tables “branch out”[the UK web design company] from it. There is a theory used to describe this database, which is the parent child theory. In this database there is only 1 parent that branches into many children (level 1 that branch into level 2 and so on).
The networking database model is basically a design to correct the flaws in the hierarchical model specially when there is too much data. However, those databases have been replaced by the new database model. The most database model used nowadays is the “relational database”[eHow]. Developed by Dr. E. F. Codd who was a mathematician working in IBM. Due to the fact that he was a mathematician he developed the relational model based on “mathematical concepts”[the UK web design company] and ideas where each table in the database is connected with the rest of the tables by one or more common key.
In this case, the first table would have general information for example, one column titled “patient ID”, another column titled “Patient Name”, a third column titled “Date of Birth”. The second table would have information about specific medical information e. g. taking particular vaccinations at specific ages or if the patient has particular disease, however the common column would be “Patient ID”. So the Patient ID is the common key that links all the tables together in the DNA database.
This new development made it easier for the data to be accessed retrieved, inserted, updated, or deleted and caused more and people to use those databases and store information on them. With even more developments, now it has became easier and cheaper to save more information by controlling more than one database at the same time through the common key. With more information stored about people, the more their privacy will be violated if the database is hacked. This creates ethical and social issues of privacy and security.
Criterion C (Impact of the Issue) There are three main ethical and social issues associated with having an easily accessible database with the DNA of individuals. One social issue is the issue of security. Having easily accessible information on a computer would mean that it is exposed to being attacked by viruses, spam, and other ways of information theft. If such important information was stolen for example the medical record of someone or the DNA print of a patient, huge issues might result.
Those who stole the information might use it for illegal purposes for example using DNA in identity theft or even blackmailing patients about exposing the fact that they have this particular disease which might negatively affect their social life and their career. The hacking will also create another issue which is the violation of privacy. The privacy of those individuals who have their personal information stored in the database will be violated in case the database is hacked. Also having an easily accessible database means that everyone can access to it and see the information.
Some of the patients might not want their medical record to be viewed by everyone because that might have an effect on their social life and their career life. For example if everyone finds out that a particular person has a particular disease many of them might avoid that person which will negatively affect their social life. Thus, even though an easily accessible DNA database makes it easier for the data to be stored in a more organized way, it becomes a huge issue if privacy if its security is not strong enough to prevent any type of hacking or illegal access.
Criterion D (Solution to the Problem Arising from the Issue) Thus, in order to make the best out of this new information storing technique; alternative solutions must be found to either reduce or overcome the issues that are associated with using the DNA database. In order to prevent such issues from occurring, the database must be secured. This happens on two ways, one by hardening the system and also controlling how the information in the database is accessed. When a database is hacked, it is usually the information there that is targeted and so the database needs to be constructed in a strong well protected server.
Usually the database is saved in its own computer that is specialized for only saving information. That computer is stable and protected on its own, unlike a “public-facing server”[TechTarget] such as a “web server” [TechTarget] (internet). All necessary protection softwares and program patches (e. g. Firewall, Anti-Adware, Anti-Virus… etc) should be downloaded, installed and updated and all “unnecessary features” should be deleted. The database should have a hard username and a password that should be changed frequently every 48 days for example.
In case the security is violated and the database is hacked, the privacy of the data will be violated thus to solve the privacy issue is to make sure that the individuals or the patients are aware that their information might be viewed by others in case something goes wrong. This can be done by giving patients forms to sign in which they state that they are fully aware that their information might be viewed by others. Thus by overcoming those issues and limitations, the broad DNA database is a good step towards using technology to improve the scientific and medical field.