Schools Must Teach Data Privacy, Says ICO


Most children do not read the privacy policies of social networks, the Information Commissioner says

School children should be taught how to protect their own privacy, and how to make best use of official government information online, the Information Commissioner’s Office said yesterday.

Most children are unaware of the privacy issues associated with social networks, even though they are online in massive numbers, said the regulator, launching an effort to get information rights issues on the curriculum of the UK’s primary and secondary schools.

As well as helping youngsters to protect their privacy, the ICO also aims to encouraging them to take advantage of publicly available information, provided by the government.

Jonathan Bamford, the ICO’s head of strategic liaison, says teaching children about their information rights will empower them to hold the government to account.

He said: “Young people today are growing up in an age where an ever increasing amount of information is held about them. It is vital that they understand their privacy rights and how to exercise them.

“We are also now seeing a big move towards transparency with more official information being released than ever before. The Freedom of Information Act is an important tool in holding decision makers to account.

“By being aware of their rights to access information, young people will feel more empowered to ask important questions about the things that matter to them.”

What privacy policy?

Eighty eight percent of secondary school children and 39 percent of primary school children have social networking profiles, according to a survey of 4,000 children by law firm Speechly Bircham.

Despite this, 60 percent of had not read the privacy policies of the networking sites they use, 32 percent did not know what a privacy policy was, and 23 percent said they didn’t know where to find it.

Information rights are dealt with in part by subjects such as IT and Law but the ICO wants to see it move into the mainstream education process, said Bamford.

And the ICO has already led a number of initiatives targeting young people including a youth area on its website, a data protection DVD for secondary schools, a presence on online community games website Habbo Hotel, and an annual student brand ambassador campaign.

But, according to the ICO,  these initiatives have limited chances of success unless information rights are formally adopted into education.

In April the ICO reprimanded a school in Oldham after a laptop was stolen from a teacher’s car, potentially exposing 90 pupils’ personal information.

That followed hot on the heels of criticism of the regulator for failing to fine a reported 99 percent of firms for data breaches, a figure disputed by the ICO.

Read also :