Social consequences of outdated or incorrect data stored in databases


This topic relates to the issue of reliability, and integrity. When the database is not managed well, it is often the case that the data stored is out of date or incorrect. Incorrect data is a data that is simply wrong, it is caused from human or computer error. The computer error is usually caused from ineffective validation rule for that particular database. Outdated data are data that has not been updated to refer to the actual status.
The first issue that arises from outdated or incorrect data is the issue of disruption of access to data. This example of this issue is discussed in the area of health. Another issue that rises from outdated or incorrect data is loss of important data. The example of this issue is discussed in the area of politics and government.

Areas of Impact


Outdated database can cause problems in treatment of wounded soldier in battle fields. According to iHealth Beat because the US army's medical record of the soldiers used a very old database system. The system needs to be updated daily manually, and cannot interface with Microsoft Windows-based programs. In addition to this, the system does not track inpatient treatment for soldiers on the battlefield. As such, the data on the database becomes outdate and incorrect. For this, database becomes ineffective, and the paper records needs to be sent to the clinicians. This process consumes significant amount of time, for this "soldiers frequently undergo redundant medical tests." (Unknown, 2007)

On the other hand, using health database has provided benefits, in terms of incorrect and outdating of data. The minister of health said that by electronic health record spreading, the outdated paper based records that lead to unnecessary delays and risks decrease. One example cited is when ambulance crews are called out to attend to people in their home. Paramedics say it can often take them a while to find out what medication an individual is on, especially when they are called in the evening and weekends. As such, in areas of health issue of incorrect and outdated data on electronic database is not as serious as in paper based system. (BBC, 2006)

Politics and Government

Another, area of impact is on government and politics.. For example, CIA uses a system called “link analysis system”, which a system that consists of multiple databases which allow identification of family relation among the suspected terrorist. Even though this system can become useful in identifying the suspects, because database is outdate it is becoming harder to track suspects. After the incident of September 11, the number of new record brought in per month increased significantly. In October, it reached 1400 names. As a result of this data overflow, some of the data that has been recorded is missed out, as such the important data of the suspect is lost. As a result the system itself became ineffective. (Diamond, 2002) This type of issue not limited to government databases, it could easily occur within other database systems that uses multiple database.

Another example of an issue regarding the impact on government and politics, is regarding incorrect database. The recent problem that occurred from incorrect data was in Japan. Because the government did not manage the pension database correctly, over 650,000 addresses were left out from the database. As a result people were unable to receive the pension even though they have paid for it. It is presumed that this mistake has occurred when transferring the information from the paper based system to the computer based system in the 19’s. (Shumbun, 2007)

Further Analysis

From the four evidences, it has been investigated that issue of outdated and incorrect data has caused significant impact on health and politics and government on society. However, these issues are not distinct to that particular areas of impacts, some of the issues overlaps to cause an overall impact on the society.

Firstly, take the example of issue on oudated datbase in the battle field and outdated datbase in the system of the CIA. Technically these two issues arose from lack of responsibility of the system manager. From the difficulties in upadating the database, due to overloading informaiton and old system structure the system manager are not able to keep up to date. As such, the main cause of these issues are difficulties in upadating the database. Therefore, inorder to reduce the impact of this issues, the process of upadating the database must be made easier. In order to increase the ease of dealing with databse, I suggest that the process of updating the system must be automated. However, implementation of this method may raise number of ethical issues. For example, the issue of reliability; if the system is automated it is highly likely that the operation of the databse will be less controlled by humans. Therefore if there is any faults in the updating system , the whole database may be effected and increase number of incorrect data.

Secondly, in the area of health it has been mentioned that currently, since most of the medical records are paper based, the issue of outdated and incorrect data is not a significant issue in electornic databse. As such, issue may not be as influencial at this moment, however, there is certainly a potential for this issue to develop; especially when the medical records are being transfered into electronic database. I anticipate that the problem that will be faced is going to be very similar to the issue of outdated and incorrect pension database in Japan. Such integrity issue, could easily occur when transfering massive amount of data on to a database. In order to stop this problem, governement must increase its awareness about the issue that could occur in the process and implement effective validation rules and verification scheme. Or else, some of the medical records may be lost like as pension database in Japan.


Weighing up the two issues, the issue of loss of important data due to incorrect or outdated databse is the most siginificant issue. There are two reasons for my position. First reason it that, for the issue of disruption in accessing data, even though the issue could raise serious problem in the treatment of the patient in area of health, because some data still exist on the database it could still be tracked to its current status, however, for the loss of important data the user will not know if any data existed on the database or not, as such it could raise a bigger problem than issue of access. The second reason is that, issue of access is not as siginificant in the electronic database, in comparison to paper based database. This is because at the moment many of the outdated data are still dealt on the paper based system, however, for the issue of loss of important it is more siginificant in the electronic database. This is because as I mentioned before the issue of integrity often occurs when the data is transfered from paper based system to computer based. As such there are more chances of having lost data in electronic database than in paper based. These are the reasons why I believe that issue of loss of important data is more siginificant than the issue of access distruption.


Diamond, J. (2002, 7 1). U.S. struggles with outdated databases. USA Today.
Shimbun, A. (2007, September 8). 650,000 addresses left out of pension database. Retrieved October 2, 2007, from
Unknown. (2007, March 29). Outdated Database Hinders Army Medical Care, Report Finds. Retrieved October 7, 2007, from
BBC. (2006, December 18). Q&A: E-care records. Retrieved October 7, 2007, from