Today is Data Protection Day. It’s not on the front page of the papers, but you might see a little notification on the bottom of the Google Homepage.

In 2007, the Council of Europe designated January 28th Data Protection Day (or Data Privacy Day in other parts of the world), to highlight the importance of protecting our own personal data. The reminder is not just to individuals. It also serves as a reminder to organisations that a right to a private life is a fundamental human right.

How does this relate to Education?

Schools and Colleges have been feeling the strain. Home learning has been extended for at least another three weeks, and many schools are trying to find new and inventive ways facilitate learning. Teachers are searching every corner of the internet for additional tools and software, just to give their students the best shot at success. Administrators are in overdrive, devising and executing plans to rollout internet connections and new devices to disadvantaged families. There is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes to keep young people from being left behind.

These moves are important. They’re integral to the continued support of students in the pandemic, but they are not without risk. Many of the new applications in use are based in the USA, where data protection laws are far less stringent. Schools and colleges must consider whether these applications are adequately protecting the privacy of their students. With the EU-US privacy shield now defunct (as discussed in a previous blog post), ensuring adequacy takes a little more work. We must also consider the possibility that families provided with an electronic device may be unfamiliar with the risks of the online world.

Schools and colleges must also be cognizant of the risks around collaborative working. Socialisation is key for young people. Without the community of the classroom, teachers are relying on collaborative working solutions to provide that important interaction. However, staying alert is key. Take care to ensure details about individuals are not disclosed in error and be extra aware of the use of personal email addresses. With so many more emails flying about, additional errors are inevitable.

Staying Alert

So, on a day where even Google is reminding you about Data Privacy, there are a few simple questions we can keep in mind to help us keep personal data safe:

  • Do members of staff have a simple process to keep online sessions secure?
  • Are you taking steps to minimise the risks of sharing email addresses?
  • Are new applications being checked by your Data Protection team before you use them?
  • Have you thought ahead about the risks that will come up when students do start to return?

Taking two seconds to run through a quick privacy checklist can save you a lot of difficulty in the future. Privacy is a fundamental right, and it’s a right we can all work to protect.

With all of that said, Happy Data Protection Day!