Call to Action: Are you concerned about children’s privacy? #LabelsLastaLifetime

What’s the story?

Thank you for your support so far to challenge the Department for Education (DfE)’s new collection of children’s highly sensitive personal confidential data that started in January 2018. 

Last September 2017 the government passed a new law to collect these highly sensitive data for these children placed in settings outside mainstream education.

“Pregnancy, mental health, young offender. Autism, disability, hearing impairment, and learning difficulties“. Just some of the new labels that will be added to individual records from January 2018. By June, new data from the Alternative Provision Census were to be ready for distribution to third parties. But we stopped raw data distribution from the National Pupil Database, and secured assurance from the Department given to the Information Commissioner’s Office that the data will not be distributed after all. With the support of a great team at Leigh Day and Louise Price of Doughty Street, we took on a legal challenge – and with your help funded the legal costs of the first stage of a judicial review. We are now waiting for the Department to publish Data Protection Impact Assessments promised to the ICO and we want a committment to communications, and safeguards on future data security.

Pupils and parents will still not be asked for consent. There is no option to refuse.  Most children are unlikely to be told at all. After a review of 152 Local Authority replies, we are yet to see any policies that explain the new data collection.

Now we need

  1. Local fair processing — every family should be written to and informed of which data label was added to their child’s record, and how it will be used, by whom and how families can object. All requirements under Data Protection law.
  2. National assurances given by the Department need to be put into law that the data collected will not be distributed to third parties.

Each pupil’s information are sent to the Department, on a named basis, where the AP census data are linked to the school census data, in the National Pupil Database (NPD) available from June each year after their collection in January, according to the NPD User Guide (see page 8). We are concerned because from here, these identifying data are given out to third parties; over 1,000 times as of May 2017, many for commercial re-use and even to journalists without a child’s or parent’s permission.

We appreciate the reasons why it is important to understand these children’s life stories. We are concerned about how those data are collected, distributed, and never deleted. #LabelsLastaLifetime. Every child has a right to privacy and confidentiality.


Actions you can take

Write to your MP and ask questions when children will be told what has been collected and how it wil be used. We are seeking to ensure that;

  • data must only be collected fairly, and for a lawful purpose,
  • each child /parent should be told how their data will be used,
  • the distribution of identifying data to third-parties at national level must end. Users should come to data stored safely.

THE Signatories of our letter to the Department for Education


On Social Media

Post this link to Facebook or Twitter so your friends can find out more too. #LabelsLastaLifetime


ask your MP for Support

Here’s a quick guide to help you discuss the issues whether you meet your MP in person, write to them or send an email.

Contact your MP as below, and get in touch with us if you want to support our work and get involved.

Use WriteToThem.com and tell them why this is important to you and your family, ask your MP if they will ask a question – why are my sensitive data being given away for commercial re-use without my consent? – and tell them what you want to change. You might want to use something from our suggested text below.

You can download a suggested text, but it’s better if you use your own words, and always include your name and address to show that you are in your MP’s constituency.


SUGGESTED TEMPLATE CONTENT TO WRITE TO THEM [follow link to find your MP] [download draft letter text . pdf]

[Date]

Dear [title and name of your MP]

I am concerned about children’s privacy in a new national government data collection in England. I would like to ask you to call on the Department for Education to pause the plans to put safeguards in place, and make sure the children and parents affected are told.

The Department for Education started a new collection of highly sensitive information from school children this year.

Pupils and parents are not asked for consent. There is no option to refuse. But one of eight reasons, including pregnancy, young offender, and mental health will be collected on every child who moves out of mainstream education into Alternative Provision and the families have not been told. Although assurances have now been made that the data will not after all be available for distribution, there is nothing in law to prevent this.

Identifying and sensitive data have been given out about individuals to third parties from the national pupil database; over 1,000 times as of May 2017, including for commercial re-use to companies, to charities, and even to TV and press journalists.

Safeguards need put in place to:

  • tell the families and children
  • protect children’s confidentiality and safeguarding
  • make data safe, end the distribution of confidential data, and address the security of the data
  • prevent the stigmatising effects and harm it could have on children for life

Representative from over 20 leading charities and child rights advocates, including ALLFIE, Mencap, the NEU (NUT), the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, Trailblazers young offender mentoring, and Unlock have written to the Secretary of State for Education  with these concerns.

  • The information are stored forever in the National Pupil Database, now of over 23 million people.
  • Identifying, pupil-level data are given out to third-parties including for commercial re-use, to charities, think tanks, and to journalists. Data have been given to the police, and handed out for linkage to Police National Computer data. These uses are not for the care of the child, but secondary re-uses.
  • Data handed out to researchers own location can include pupil name and address, date of birth, special educational needs, attainment and exclusions across a child’s lifetime education age 2-19.

Ofsted’s Report on Local area SEND inspections and a recent report by think Tank IPRR Making the Difference show the importance of understanding these information. But that should not be at  the expense of the lifetime privacy of the children affected. Children have a right to privacy and Article 12 of the UNCRC says that children and young people have the human right to be involved in decisions about them.

If the Department of Education cannot stop the distribution of identifying data for re-use, and commit to children’s confidentiality; we believe the government should not collect the data at all.

Thank you for your time and I hope you will ask questions, and call for the changes that need made.

  1. For fair processing — every family should be written to and informed of which data label was added to their child’s record
  2. Assurances given need put into law that the data collected will not be distributed to third parties.

Background: Alternative Provision School Census expansion JAN 2018

We called on the Department for Education to respect children’s data privacy, or pause the start of a new national data collection of sensitive data in Alternative Provision from January 2018.

Now we want the assurances given put into law, that the data collected will not be distributed to third parties. And every family should be written to and informed of which data label was added to their child’s record.

Download collective NGOs letter [original as sent by post and email] January 11, 2018 following appointment of new Secretary of State for Education.

Download collective NGOs letter[original as sent by post and email] December 11, 2017 and email introduction below.

  • Briefing [4-pages] [download, .pdf 899 kB] January 2018
  • Short briefing [2-pages] [download, .pdf 123 KB] 14 Dec 2017
  • The Statutory Instrument [link]The Education (Information About Children in Alternative Provision) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (807/2017) and its Explanatory Memorandum 
  • Letter to the Department for Education and Office of the Information Commissioner  [download .pdf] (September 21, 2017) On Nov 30, 2017 in a brief email, the DfE confirmed there is no change in plans.
  • In 2016, there were 22,212 children recorded as being in local authority funded placements outside of state place funded schools, including children who are educated in private voluntary and independent (“PVI”) settings.
  • Background for schools by the Department for Education [link]

You can read some more background and read about our concerns in Schools Week. Download our briefing for more facts.

See the AP Guide 1.3  for the official background to the census.

This is a highly significant new national data policy, affecting some of the most vulnerable children in England. It vastly increases risk of loss of privacy without any reason why knowledge could not be collected in a more privacy-preserving method.

Based on current 2016 numbers, the new collection would affect around 22,000 children each year, but all 23 million records in the NPD are compromised each year. The Department appears to have no intention to tell providers or the local authority how to inform parents and children about the details of this expansion of the data collection. This is despite the Data Protection requirement to explain it with clear reasons to the pupils, when the information are collected.

Identifying and sensitive reasons for exclusion and SEN data (eg including profound & multiple learning difficulty, hearing and visual impairment and Autism) are already given away today to third parties from the school census collections once every term.

The data are identifiable at pupil-level, not anonymous, and stored forever. The information include name and address, date of birth, special educational needs, results across the educational lifetime from age 2-19 and more.

Data from the National Pupil Database, including sensitive special needs data (SEN) has already been passed on since 2012 to commercial companies, charities, think tanks, newspaper and TV journalists at an individual pupil level for millions of pupils at a time, without any suppression of small numbers. The Department doesn’t even know how many children’s records it gives away each time. (PQ109113)

Relying on journalists not publishing the pupil-level data, as the Telegraph “assured” the DfE in 2013 for about 9 million records, handed out without hiding small numbers, is an utterly inadequate level of protection for pupils’ sensitive data. The Department overlooks that the release from the Department is a release of data into the pubic domain — charities, commercial businesses, the press — releases that the public do not expect.

This year only one release of data from between January 2017 and May 2017 was not at pupil level. National Pupil data are also used today across government in Troubled Families — a risk without transparency in a programme that some academics see “any family could be made to fit”— , and are given to the National Citizen Service, and stored forever; without pupils’/parents’ knowledge, or self-verification for accuracy or correction. Pupil data from the school census are also used by the Home Office.

Requests to use national pupil data have also included for research for operational predictive policing.

Children and families are refused subject access requests, so there is no safety check if these data are accurate or need corrected before use, or for people to find out how their data were used.


The Department has done no Risk assessment or public Consultation

The Schools Minister claims it will not be any more of a privacy risk – despite the fact that these highly sensitive data will be added to a national, indefinite collection and given out to a whole new range of third parties without being made anonymous. The Department refuses to assess the risks (PQ 108570) and brought in the change of law in the summer holidays.

These data will potentially result in lifelong discrimination, and could harm children’s development and restrict their flourishing to reach their full potential; used for direct interventions when linked with data across government, by police and released to other third parties at national level.

No consultation has taken place

When making arrangements about early childhood services, a local authority must have regard to such information about the views of children as is available and appears to them to be relevant to the discharge of those duties (section 3(5) Childcare Act 2006).The local authority is also required to consult such children as it considers appropriate when undertaking a childcare sufficiency assessment under section 11. So why is there no consultation on use of their personal data?


Principles

1. All children are vulnerable and their sensitive data must be safe.
2. Use of all data from the National Pupil Database must be transparent.
3. Stop giving out identifying, sensitive data without consent.
4. Every child should be told why their data are being collected. That includes the 15 million people in the database who have left school.
5. Every researcher should come to the data, stop sending data to them.
6. Every use of data must be clear to schools that submit it in the census.