Tag Archives: National Pupil Database

Data Protection law is being set up as a patsy.

After Dominic Cummings’ marathon session at the Select Committee, the Times published an article on,”The heroes and villains of the pandemic, according to Dominic Cummings”

One of Dom’s villains left out, was data protection law. He claimed, “if someone somewhere in the system didn’t say, ‘ignore GDPR’ thousands of people were going to die,” and that “no one even knew if that itself was legal—it almost definitely wasn’t.”

Thousands of people have died since that event he recalled from March 2020, but as a result of Ministers’ decisions, not data laws.

Data protection laws are *not* barriers, but permissive laws to *enable* use of personal data within a set of standards and safeguards designed to protect people. The opposite of what its detractors would have us believe.

The starting point is fundamental human rights. Common law confidentially. But the GDPR and its related parts on public health, are in fact specifically designed to enable data processing that overrules those principles for pandemic response purposes . In recognition of emergency needs for a limited time period, data protection laws permit interference with our fundamental rights and freedoms, including overriding privacy.

We need that protection of our privacy sometimes from government itself. And sometimes from those who see themselves as “the good guys” and above the law.

The Department of Health appears to have no plan to tell people about care.data 2,  the latest attempt at an NHS data grab, despite the fact that data protection laws require that they do. From September 1st (delayed to enable it to be done right, thanks to campaign efforts from medConfidential et supporters) all our GP medical records will be copied into a new national database for re-use, unless we actively opt out.

It’s groundhog day for the Department of Health. It is baffling why the government cannot understand or accept the need to do the right thing, and instead is repeating the same mistake of recent memory, all over again. Why the rush without due process and steamrollering any respect for the rule of law?

Were it not so serious, it might amuse me that some academic researchers appear to fail to acknowledge this matters, and they are getting irate on Twitter that *privacy* or ‘campaigners’ will prevent them getting hold of the data they appear to feel entitled to. Blame the people that designed a policy that will breach human rights and the law, not the people who want your rights upheld. And to blame the right itself is just, frankly, bizarre.

Such rants prompt me to recall the time when early on in my lay role on the Administrative Data Research Network approvals panel, a Director attending the meeting *as a guest* became so apoplectic with rage, that his face was nearly purple. He screamed, literally, at the panel of over ten well respected academics and experts in research and / or data because he believed the questions being asked over privacy and ethics principles in designing governance documents were unnecessary.

Or I might recall the request at my final meeting two years later in 2017 by another then Director, for access to highly sensitive and linked children’s health and education data to do (what I believed was valuable) public interest research involving the personal data of children with Down Syndrome. But the request came through the process with no ethical review. A necessary step before it should even have reached the panel for discussion.

I was left feeling from those two experiences, that both considered themselves and their work to be in effect “above the law” and expected special treatment, and a free pass without challenge. And that it had not improved over the two years.

If anyone in the research community cannot support due process, law, and human rights when it comes to admin data access, research using highly sensitive data about people’s lives with potential for significant community and personal impacts, then you are part of the problem.  There was extensive public outreach in 2012-13 across the UK about the use of personal if de-identified data in safe settings. And in 2014 the same concerns and red-lines were raised by hundreds of people in person, almost universally with the same reactions, at a range of care.data public engagement events. Feedback which institutions say matters, but continue to ignore.

It seems nothing has changed since I wrote,

“The commercial intermediaries still need to be told, don’t pee in the pool. It spoils it, for everyone else.”

We could also look back to when Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education, changed the law in 2012 to permit pupil level, identifying and sensitive personal data to be given away to third parties. Press. Charities. Commercial companies even included an Internet tutoring business. (Cummings was coincidentally his SpAd at the Department for Education.)  As a direct result of that decision to give away pupils’ personal data in 2012, (in effect ‘re-engineering’ how the education sector was structured and the roles of the local authority and non-state providers)  an ICO audit of the DfE in February 2020 found unlawful practice and made 139 recommendations for change. We’re still waiting to see if and how it will be fixed.  At the moment it’s business as usual. Literally. The ICO don’t appear even to have stopped further data distribution until made lawful.

In April 2021, in answer to a written Parliamentary Question Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, made a commitment to “publish an update to the audit in June 2021 and further details regarding the release mechanism of the full audit report will be contained in this update.”  Will they promote openess, transparency, accountablity,or continue to skulk from publishing the whole truth?

Children have lost control of their digital footprint in state education by their fifth birthday.  The majority of parents polled in 2018 do not know the National Pupil Database even exists. 69% of over 1,004 parents asked, replied that they had not been informed that the Department for Education may give away children’s data to third-parties at all.

Thousands of companies continue to exploit children’s school records, without opt-in or opt-out, including special educational needs, ethnicity, and other sensitive data at pupil level.

Data protection law alone is in fact so enabling of data flow, that it is inadequate to protect children’s rights and freedoms across the state education sector in England; whether from public interest, charity or commercial research interventions without opt in or out, without parental knowledge. We shouldn’t need to understand our rights or to be proactive, in order to have them protected by default but data protection law and the ICO in particular have been captured by the siren call of data as a source of ‘innovation’ and economic growth.

Throughout 2018 and questions over Vote Leave data uses, Cummings claimed to know GDPR well. It was everyone else who didn’t. On his blog that July he suggested, “MPs haven’t even bothered to understand GDPR, which they mis-explain badly,” and in April he wrote,  The GDPR legislation is horrific. One of the many advantages of Brexit is we will soon be able to bin such idiotic laws.” He lambasted the Charter of Fundamental Rights the protections of which the government went on to take away from us under European Union Withdrawal Act.

But suddenly, come 2020/21 he is suggesting he didn’t know the law that well after all, “no one even knew if that itself was legal—it almost definitely wasn’t.”

Data Protection law is being set up as a patsy, while our confidentiality is commodified. The problem is not the law. The problem is those in power who fail to respect it, those who believe themselves to be above it, and who feel an entitlement to exploit that for their own aims.


Added 21/06/2021: Today I again came across a statement that I thought worth mentioning, from the Explanatory Notes for the Data Protection Bill from 2017:

Accordingly, Parliament passed the Data Protection Act 1984 and ratified the Convention in 1985, partly to ensure the free movement of data. The Data Protection Act 1984 contained principles which were taken almost directly from Convention 108 – including that personal data shall be obtained and processed fairly and lawfully and held only for specified purposes.”

The Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC) (“the 1995 Directive”) provides the current basis for the UK’s data protection regime. The 1995 Directive stemmed from the European Commission’s concern that a number of Member States had not introduced national law related to Convention 108 which led to concern that barriers may be erected to data flows. In addition, there was a considerable divergence in the data protection laws between Member States. The focus of the 1995 Directive was to protect the right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data and to ensure the free flow of personal data between Member States. “

Mutant algorithms, roadmaps and reports: getting real with public sector data

The CDEI has published ‘new analysis on the use of data in local government during the COVID-19 crisis’ (the Report) and it features some similarities in discussing data that the Office for AI roadmap (the Roadmap) did in January on machine learning.

A notable feature is that the CDEI work includes a public poll. Nearly a quarter of 2,000 adults said that the most important thing for them, to trust the council’s use of data, would be “a guarantee that information is anonymised before being shared, so your data can’t be linked back to you.”

Both the Report and the Roadmap shy away from or avoid that problematic gap in their conclusions, between public expectations and reality in the application of data used at scale in public service provision, especially in identifying vulnerability and risk prediction.

Both seek to provide vision and aims around the future development of data governance in the UK.

The fact is that everyone must take off their rose-tinted spectacles on data governance to accept this gap, and get basics fixed in existing practice to address it. In fact, as academic Michael Veale wrote, often the public sector is looking for the wrong solution entirely.The focus should be on taking off the ‘tech goggles’ to identify problems, challenges and needs, and to not be afraid to discover that other policy options are superior to a technology investment.”

But used as it is, the public sector procurement and use of big data at scale, whether in AI and Machine Learning or other systems, require significant changes in approach.

The CDEI poll asked, If an organisation is using an algorithmic tool to make decisions, what do you think are the most important safeguards that they should put in place  68% rated, that humans have a key role in overseeing the decision-making process, for example reviewing automated decisions and making the final decision, in their top three safeguards.

So what is this post about? Why our arms length bodies and various organisations’ work on data strategy are hindering the attainment of the goals they claim to promote, and what needs fixed to get back on track. Accountability.

Framing the future governance of data

On Data Infrastructure and Public Trust, the AI Council Roadmap stated an ambition to, “Lead the development of data governance options and its uses. The UK should lead in developing appropriate standards to frame the future governance of data.”

To suggest we not only should be a world leader but imagine that there is the capability to do so, suggests a disconnect with current reality, none of which was mentioned in the Roadmap but is drawn out a little more in the CDEI Report from local authority workshops.

When it comes to data policy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) based on data processing and therefore dependent on its infrastructure, suggesting we should lead on data governance, as if separate from the existing standards and frameworks set out in law, would be disastrous for the UK and businesses in it.  Exports need to meet standards in the receiving countries. You cannot just ‘choose your own’ adventure here.

The CDEI Report says both that participants in their workshops found a lack of legal clarity “in the collection and use of data” and, “Participants finished the Forum by discussing ways of overcoming the barriers to effective and ethical data use.”

Lack of understanding of the law is a lack of competence and capability that I have seen and heard time and time and time again in participants at workshops, events, webinars, some of whom are in charge of deciding what tools are procured and how to implement public policy using administrative data, over the last 5 years. The law on data processing is accessible and generally straightforward.

If your work involves “overcoming barriers” then either there is not competence to understand what is lawful to proceed with confidence using data protections appropriately, or you are trying to avoid doing so. Neither is a good place to be in for public authorities, and bodes badly for the safe, fair, transparent and lawful use of our personal data by them.

But it is also lack of data infrastructure that increases the skills gap and leaves a bigger need to know what is lawful or not, because if your data is held in “excessive use of excel spreadsheets” then you need to make decisions about ‘sharing’ done through distribution of data. Data access can be more easily controlled through role-based access models, that make it clear when someone is working around their assigned security role, and creates an audit trail of access. You reduce risk by distributing access, not distributing data.

The CDEI Report quotes as a ‘concern’ that data access granted under emergency powers in the pandemic will be taken away. This is a mistaken view that should be challenged. That access was *always* conditional and time limited. It is not something that will be ‘taken away’ but an exceptional use only granted because it was temporary, for exceptional purposes in exceptional times. Had it not been time limited, you wouldn’t have had access. Emergency powers in law are not ‘taken away’, but can only be granted at all in an emergency. So let’s not get caught up in artificial imaginings of what could change and what ifs, but change what we know is necessary.

We would do well to get away from the hyperbole of being world-leading, and aim for a minimum high standard of competence and capability in all staff who have any data decision-making roles and invest in the basic data infrastructure they need to do a good job.

Appropriate standards to frame the future governance of data

The AI Council Roadmap suggested that, “The UK should lead in developing appropriate standards to frame the future governance of data.”  Let’s stop and really think for a minute, what did the Roadmap writers think they meant by that?

Because we have law that frames ‘appropriate standards.’ The UK government just seems unable or unwilling to meet it. And not only in these examples, in fact I’d challenge all the business owners on the AI Council to prove their own products meet it.

You could start with the Guidelines on Automated individual decision-making and Profiling for the purposes of Regulation 2016/679 (wp251rev.01). Or consider any of the Policy, recommendations, declarations, guidelines and other legal instruments issued by Council of Europe bodies or committees on artificial intelligence. Or valuable for export standards, ensure respect for the Convention 108  standards to which we are a signed up State party among its over 50 countries, and growing. That’s all before the simplicity of the UK Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR.

You could start with auditing current practice for lawfulness. The CDEI Roadmap says, “The CDEI is now working in partnership with local authorities, including Bristol City Council, to help them maximise the benefits of data and data-driven technologies.” I might suggest that includes a good legal team, as I think the Council needs one.

The UK is already involved in supporting the development of guidelines (as I was alongside UK representatives of government and the data regulator the ICO among hundreds of participants in drawing out Convention 108 Guidelines on data processing in education) but to suggest as a nation state that we have the authority to speak on the future governance of data without acknowledging what we should already be doing and where we get it wrong, is an odd place to start.

The current state of reality in various sectors

Take for example the ICO audit of the Department for Education.

Failures to meet basic principles of data protection law include knowing what data they’ve got, appropriate controls on distribution and failure to fair process (tell people you process their data). This is no small stuff. And it’s only highlights from the eight page summary.

The DfE don’t adequately understand what data they hold and not having a record of processing leads to a direct breach of #GDPR. Did you know the Department is not able to tell you to which third parties your own or your child’s sensitive, identifying personal data (from over 21m records) was sent, among 1000s of releases?

The approach on data releases has been to find a way to fit the law to suit data requests, rather than assess if data distribution should be approved at all. This ICO assessment was of only 400 applications — there’s been closer to 2,000 approved since 2012. One refusal was to the US. Another the MOD.


For too long, the DfE ‘internal cultural barriers and attitudes’ has meant it hasn’t cared about your rights and freedoms or meeting its lawful obligations. That is a national government Department in charge of over fifty such mega databases, the NPD is only one of. This is a systemic and structural set of problems, as a direct result of Ministerial decisions that changed the law in 2012 to give our personal data away from state education. It was a choice made not to tell the people whom the data were about. This continues to be in breach of the law. And that is the same across many government departments.

Why does it even matter some still ask? Because there is harm to people today. There is harm in history that must not be possible to repeat. And some of the data held could be used in dangerous ways.

You only need to glance at other applications in government departments and public services to see bad policy, bad data and bad AI or machine learning outcomes. And all of those lead to breakdowns in trust and relations between people and the systems meant to support them, that in turn lead to bad data, and policy.

Unless government changes its approach, the direction of travel is towards less trust, and for public health for example, we see the consequences in disastrous responses from not attending for vaccination based on mistrust of proven data sharing, to COVID conspiracy theories.

Commercial reuse of pubic admin data is a huge mistake and the direction of travel is damaging.

“Survey responses collected from more than 3,000 people across the UK and US show that in late 2018, some 95% of people were not willing to share their medical data with commercial industries. This contrasts with a Wellcome study conducted in 2016 which found that half of UK respondents were willing to do so.” (July 2020, Imperial College)

Mutant algorithms

Summer 2020 first saw no human accountability for grades “derailed by a mutant #algorithm — then the resignation of two  Ofqual executives. What aspects of the data governance failures will be addressed this year? Where’s the *fairness* —there is a legal duty to tell people how what data is used especially in its automated aspects.

Misplaced data and misplaced policy aims

In June 2020 The DWP argued in a court case that, “to change the way the benefit’s online computer calculation system worked in line with the original court ruling would undermine the principle of universal credit” — Not only does it fail its public interest purpose, and does harm, but is lax on its own #data governance controls. World leading is far, far, far away.

Entrenched racism

In August 2020 “The Home Office [has] agreed to stop using a computer algorithm to help decide visa applications after allegations that it contained “entrenched racism”. How did it ever get approved for use?

That entrenched racism is found in policing too. The Gangs Matrix use of data required an Enforcement Notice from the ICO and how it continues to operate at all, given its recognised discrimination and harm to young lives, is shocking.

Policy makers seem fixated on quick fixes that for the most part exist only in the marketing speak of the sellers of the products, while ignoring real problems in ethics and law, and denying harm.

“Now is a good time to stop.”

The most obvious case for me, where the Office for AI should step in, and where the CDEI Report from workshops with Local Authorities was most glaringly remiss, is where there is evidence of failure of efficacy and proven risk of danger to life through the procurement of technology in public policy. Don’t forget to ask what doesn’t work.

In January 2020  a report from researchers at The Turing institute, Rees Centre and What Works Centre published a report on ethics in Machine Learning in Children’s Social Care (CSC) and raised the “dangerous blind spots” and “lurking biases” in application of machine learning in UK children’s social care— totally unsuitable for life and death situations. Its later evidence showed models that do not work or wuld reach the threshold they set for defining ‘success’.

Out of the thirty four councils who had said they had acute difficulties in recruiting children’s social workers in December 2020 Local Government survey, 50 per cent said they had both difficulty recruiting generally and difficulty recruiting the required expertise, experience or qualification. Can staff in such challenging circumstances really have capacity to understand the limitations of developing technology on top of their every day expertise?

And when it comes to focussing on the data, there are problems too. By focusing on the data held, and using only that to make policy decisions rather than on the ground expertise, we end up in situations where only “those who get measured, get helped”.

As Michael Sanders wrote, on CSC, “Now is a good time to stop. With the global coronavirus pandemic, everything has been changed, all our data scrambled to the point of uselessness in any case.

There is no short cut

If the Office for AI Roadmap is to be taken seriously outside its own bubble, the board need to be and be seen to be independent of government. It must engage with reality of applied AI in practice in public services, getting basics fixed first.  Otherwise all its talk of “doubling down” and suggesting the UK government can build public trust and position the UK as a ‘global leader’ on Data Governance is misleading and a waste of everyone’s time and capacity.

I appreciate that it says, “This Roadmap and its recommendations reflects the views of the Council as well as 100+ additional experts.” All of whom I imagine are more expert than me. If so, which of them is working on fixing the basic underlying problems with data governance within public sector data, how and by when? If they are not, why are they not, and who is?

The CDEI report published today identified in local authorities that, “public consultation can be a ‘nice to have’, as it often involves significant costs where budgets are already limited.” If it’s a position the CDEI does not say is flawed, it may as well pack up and go home. On page 27 it reports, “When asked about their understanding of how their local council is currently using personal data and presented with a list of possible uses, 39% of respondents reported that they do not know how their personal data is being used.” The CDEI should be flagging this with a great big red pen as an indicator of unlawful practice.

The CDEI Report also draws on the GDS Ethical Framework but that will be forever flawed as long as its own users, not the used, are the leading principle focus, underpinning the aims. It starts with “Define and understand public benefit and user need.” There’s very little about ethics and it’s much more about “justifying our project”.

The Report did not appear to have asked the attendees what impact they think their processes have on everyday lives, and social justice.

Without fixes in these approaches, we will never be world leading, but will lag behind because we haven’t built the safe infrastructure necessitated by our vast public administrative data troves. We must end bad data practice which includes getting right the basic principles on retention and data minimisation, and security (all of which would be helped if we started by reducing those ‘vast public administrative data troves’ much of which ranges from poor to abysmal data quality anyway). Start proper governance and oversight procedures. And put in place all the communication channels, tools, policy and training to make telling people how data are used and fair processing happen. It is not, a ‘nice to have’ but is required in all data processing laws around the world.

Any genuine “barriers” to data use in data protection law,  are designed as protections for people; the people the public sector, its staff and these arms length bodies are supposed to serve.

Blaming algorithms, blaming lack of clarity in the law, blaming “barriers” is avoidance of one thing. Accountability. Accountability for bad policy, bad data and bad applications of tools is a human responsibility. The systems you apply to human lives affect people, sometimes forever and in the most harmful ways.

What would I love to see led from any of these arms length bodies?

  1. An audit of existing public admin data held, by national and local government, and consistent published registers of databases and algorithms / AI / ML currently in use.
  2. Expose where your data system is nothing more than excel spreadsheets and demand better infrastructure.
  3. Identify the lawful basis for each set of data processes, their earliest records dates and content.
  4. Publish that resulting ROPA and the retention schedule.
  5. Assign accountable owners to databases, tools and the registers.
  6. Sort out how you will communicate with people whose data you unlawfully process to meet the law, or stop processing it.
  7. And above all, publish a timeline for data quality processes and show that you understand how the degradation of data accuracy, quality, and storage limitations all affect the rights and responsibilities in law that change over time, as a result.

There is no short cut, to doing a good job, but a bad one.

If organisations and bodies are serious about “good data” use in the UK, they must stop passing the buck and spreading the hype. Let’s get on with what needs fixed.

In the words of Gavin Freeguard, then let’s see how it goes.

Statutory Instruments, the #DPBill and the growth of the Database State

First they came for the lists of lecturers. Did you speak out?

Last week Chris Heaton-Harris MP wrote to vice-chancellors to ask for a list of lecturers’ names and course content, “With particular reference to Brexit”.  Academics on social media spoke out in protest. There has been little reaction however, to a range of new laws that permit the incremental expansion of the database state on paper and in practice.

The government is building ever more sensitive lists of names and addresses, without oversight. They will have access to information about our bank accounts. They are using our admin data to create distress-by-design in a ‘hostile environment.’ They are writing laws that give away young people’s confidential data, ignoring new EU law that says children’s data merits special protections.

Earlier this year, Part 5 of the new Digital Economy Act reduced the data protection infrastructure between different government departments. This week, in discussion on the Codes of Practice, some local government data users were already asking whether safeguards can be further relaxed to permit increased access to civil registration data and use our identity data for more purposes.

Now in the Data Protection Bill, the government has included clauses in Schedule 2, to reduce our rights to question how our data are used and that will remove a right to redress where things go wrong.  Clause 15 designs-in open ended possibilities of Statutory Instruments for future change.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution point out  on the report on the Bill, that the number and breadth of the delegated powers, are, “an increasingly common feature of legislation which, as we have repeatedly stated, causes considerable concern.”

Concern needs to translate into debate, better wording and safeguards to ensure Parliament maintains its role of scrutiny and where necessary constrains executive powers.

Take as case studies, three new Statutory Instruments on personal data  from pupils, students, and staff. They all permit more data to be extracted from individuals and to be sent to national level:

  • SI 807/2017 The Education (Information About Children in Alternative Provision) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017
  • SI No. 886 The Education (Student Information) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (W. 214) and
  • SL(5)128 – The Education (Supply of Information about the School Workforce) (Wales) Regulations 2017

The SIs typically state “impact assessment has not been prepared for this Order as no impact on businesses or civil society organisations is foreseen. The impact on the public sector is minimal.” Privacy Impact Assessments are either not done, not published or refused via FOI.

Ever expanding national databases of names

Our data are not always used for the purposes we expect in practice, or what Ministers tell us they will be used for.

Last year the government added nationality to the school census in England, and snuck the change in law through Parliament in the summer holidays.  (SI 808/2016). Although the Department for Education conceded after public pressure, “These data will not be passed to the Home Office,” the intention was very real to hand over “Nationality (once collected)” for immigration purposes. The Department still hands over children’s names and addresses every month.

That SI should have been a warning, not a process model to repeat.

From January, thanks to yet another rushed law without debate, (SI 807/2017) teen pregnancy, young offender and mental health labels will be added to children’s records for life in England’s National Pupil Database. These are on a named basis, and highly sensitive. Data from the National Pupil Database, including special needs data (SEN) are passed on for a broad range of purposes to third parties, and are also used across government in Troubled Families, shared with National Citizen Service, and stored forever; on a named basis, all without pupils’ consent or parents’ knowledge. Without a change in policy, young offender and pregnancy, will be handed out too.

Our children’s privacy has been outsourced to third parties since 2012. Not anonymised data, but  identifiable and confidential pupil-level data is handed out to commercial companies, charities and press, hundreds of times a year, without consent.

Near-identical wording  that was used in 2012 to change the law in England, reappears in the new SI for student data in Wales.

The Wales government introduced regulations for a new student database of names, date of birth and ethnicity, home address including postcode, plus exam results. The third parties listed who will get given access to the data without asking for students’ consent, include the Student Loans Company and “persons who, for the purpose of promoting the education or well-being of students in Wales, require the information for that purpose”, in SI No. 886, the Education (Student Information) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (W. 214).

The consultation was conflated with destinations data, and while it all sounds for the right reasons, the SI is broad on purposes and prescribed persons. It received 10 responses.

Separately, a 2017 consultation on the staff data collection received 34 responses about building a national database of teachers, including names, date of birth, National Insurance numbers, ethnicity, disability, their level of Welsh language skills, training, salary and more. Unions and the Information Commissioner’s Office both asked basic questions in the consultation that remain unanswered, including who will have access. It’s now law thanks  to SL(5)128 – The Education (Supply of Information about the School Workforce) (Wales) Regulations 2017. The questions are open.

While I have been assured this weekend in writing that these data will not be used for commercial purposes or immigration enforcement, any meaningful safeguards are missing.

More failings on fairness

Where are the communications to staff, students and parents? What oversight will there be? Will a register of uses be published? And why does government get to decide without debate, that our fundamental right to privacy can be overwritten by a few lines of law? What protections will pupils, students and staff have in future how these data will be used and uses expanded for other things?

Scope creep is an ever present threat. In 2002 MPs were assured on the changes to the “Central Pupil Database”, that the Department for Education had no interest in the identity of individual pupils.

But come 2017 and the Department for Education has become the Department for Deportation.

Children’s names are used to match records in an agreement with the Home Office handing over up to 1,500 school pupils’ details a month. The plan was parliament and public should never know.

This is not what people expect or find reasonable. In 2015 UCAS had 37,000 students respond to an Applicant Data Survey. 62% of applicants think sharing their personal data for research is a good thing, and 64% see personal benefits in data sharing.  But over 90% of applicants say they should be asked first, regardless of whether their data is to be used for research, or other things. This SI takes away their right to control their data and their digital identity.

It’s not in young people’s best interests to be made more digitally disempowered and lose control over their digital identity. The GDPR requires data privacy by design. This approach should be binned.

Meanwhile, the Digital Economy Act codes of practice talk about fair and lawful processing as if it is a real process that actually happens.

That gap between words on paper, and reality, is a caredata style catastrophe across every sector of public data and government waiting to happen. When will the public be told how data are used?

Better data must be fairer and safer in the future

The new UK Data Protection Bill is in Parliament right now, and its wording will matter. Safe data, transparent use, and independent oversight are not empty slogans to sling into the debate.

They must shape practical safeguards to prevent there being no course of redress if you are slung into a Border Force van at dawn, your bank account is frozen, or you get a 30 days notice-to-leave letter all by mistake.

To ensure our public [personal] data are used well, we need to trust why they’re collected and see how they are used. But instead the government has drafted their own get-out-of-jail-free-card to remove all our data protection rights to know in the name of immigration investigation and enforcement, and other open ended public interest exemptions.

The pursuit of individuals and their rights under an anti-immigration rhetoric without evidence of narrow case need, in addition to all the immigration law we have, is not the public interest, but ideology.

If these exemptions becomes law, every one of us loses right to ask where our data came from, why it was used for that purpose, or course of redress.

The Digital Economy Act removed some of the infrastructure protections between Departments for datasharing. These clauses will remove our rights to know where and why that data has been passed around between them.

These lines are not just words on a page. They will have real effects on real people’s lives. These new databases are lists of names, and addresses, or attach labels to our identity that last a lifetime.

Even the advocates in favour of the Database State know that if we want to have good public services, their data use must be secure and trustworthy, and we have to be able to trust staff with our data.

As the Committee sits this week to review the bill line by line, the Lords must make sure common sense sees off the scattering of substantial public interest and immigration exemptions in the Data Protection Bill. Excessive exemptions need removed, not our rights.

Otherwise we can kiss goodbye to the UK as a world leader in tech that uses our personal data, or research that uses public data. Because if the safeguards are weak, the commercial players who get it wrong in trials of selling patient data,  or who try to skip around the regulatory landscape asking to be treated better than everyone else, and fail to comply with Data Protection law, or when government is driven to chasing children out of education, it doesn’t  just damage their reputation, or the potential of innovation for all, they damage public trust from everyone, and harm all data users.

Clause 15 leaves any future change open ended by Statutory Instrument. We can already see how SIs like these are used to create new national databases that can pop up at any time, without clear evidence of necessity, and without chance for proper scrutiny. We already see how data can be used, beyond reasonable expectations.

If we don’t speak out for our data privacy, the next time they want a list of names, they won’t need to ask. They’ll already know.


First they came …” is with reference to the poem written by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).

Are UK teacher and pupil profile data stolen, lost and exposed?

Update received from Edmodo, VP Marketing & Adoption, June 1:


While everyone is focused on #WannaCry ransomware, it appears that a global edTech company has had a potential global data breach that few are yet talking about.

Edmodo is still claiming on its website it is, “The safest and easiest way for teachers to connect and collaborate with students, parents, and each other.” But is it true, and who verifies that safe is safe?

Edmodo data from 78 million users for sale

Matt Burgess wrote in VICE: “Education website Edmodo promises a way for “educators to connect and collaborate with students, parents, and each other”. However, 78 million of its customers have had their user account details stolen. Vice’s Motherboard reports that usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords were taken from the service and have been put up for sale on the dark web for around $1,000 (£700).

“Data breach notification website LeakBase also has a copy of the data and provided it to Motherboard. According to LeakBase around 40 million of the accounts have email addresses connected to them. The company said it is aware of a “potential security incident” and is investigating.”

The Motherboard article by Joseph Cox, says it happened last month. What has been done since? Why is there no public information or notification about the breach on the company website?

Joseph doesn’t think profile photos are at risk, unless someone can log into an account. He was given usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords, and as far as he knows, that was all that was stolen.

“The passwords have apparently been hashed with the robust bcrypt algorithm, and a string of random characters known as a salt, meaning hackers will have a much harder time obtaining user’s actual login credentials. Not all of the records include a user email address.”

Going further back, it looks like Edmodo’s weaknesses had already been identified 4 years ago. Did anything change?

So far I’ve been unable to find out from Edmodo directly. There is no telephone technical support. There is no human that can be reached dialling the headquarters telephone number.

Where’s the parental update?

No one has yet responded to say whether UK pupils and teachers’ data was among that reportedly stolen. (Update June 1, the company did respond with confirmation of UK users involved.)

While there is no mention of the other data the site holds being in the breach, details are as yet sketchy, and Edmodo holds children’s data. Where is the company assurance what was and was not stolen?

As it’s a platform log on I would want to know when parents will be told exactly what was compromised and how details have been exposed. I would want clarification if this could potentially be a weakness for further breaches of other integrated systems, or not.

Are edTech and IoT toys fit for UK children?

In 2016, more than 727,000 UK children had their information compromised following a cyber attack on VTech, including images. These toys are sold as educational, even if targeted at an early age.

In Spring 2017, CloudPets, the maker of Internet of Things teddy bears, “smart toys” left more than two million voice recordings from children online without any security protections and exposing children’s personal details.

As yet UK ministers have declined our civil society recommendations to act and take steps on the public sector security of national pupil data or on the private security of Internet connected toys and things. The latter in line with Germany for example.

It is right that the approach is considered. The UK government must take these risks seriously in an evidence based and informed way, and act, not with knee jerk reactions. But it must act.

Two months after Germany banned the Cayla doll, we still had them for sale here.

Parents are often accused of being uninformed, but we must be able to expect that our products pass a minimum standard of tech and data security testing as part of pre-sale consumer safety testing.

Parents have a responsibility to educate themselves to a reasonable level of user knowledge. But the opportunities are limited when there’s no transparency. Much of the use of a child’s personal data and system data’s interaction with our online behaviour, in toys, things, and even plain websites remains hidden to most of us.

So too, the Edmodo privacy policy contained no mention of profiling or behavioural web tracking, for example. Only when this savvy parent spotted it was happening, it appears the company responded properly to fix it. Given strict COPPA rules it is perhaps unsurprising, though it shouldn’t have happened at all.

How will the uses of these smart toys, and edTech apps be made safe, and is the government going to update regulations to do so?

Are public sector policy, practice and people, fit for managing UK children’s data privacy needs?

While these private edTech companies used directly in schools can expose children to risk, so too does public data collected in schools, being handed out to commercial companies, by government departments. Our UK government does not model good practice.

Two years on, I’m still working on asking for fixes in basic national pupil data improvement.  To make safe data policy, this is far too slow.

The Department for Education is still cagey about transparency, not telling schools it gives away national pupil data including to commercial companies without pupil or parental knowledge, and hides the Home Office use, now on a monthly basis, by not publishing it on a regular basis.

These uses of data are not safe, and expose children to potential greater theft, loss and selling of their personal data. It must change.

Whether the government hands out children’s data to commercial companies at national level and doesn’t tell schools, or staff in schools do it directly through in-class app registrations, it is often done without consent, and without any privacy impact assessment or due diligence up front. Some send data to the US or Australia. Schools still tell parents these are ‘required’ without any choice. But have they ensured that there is an equal and adequate level of data protection offered to personal data that they extract from the SIMs?

 

School staff and teachers manage, collect, administer personal data daily, including signing up children as users of web accounts with technology providers. Very often telling parents after the event, and with no choice. How can they and not put others at risk, if untrained in the basics of good data handling practices?

In our UK schools, just like the health system, the basics are still not being fixed or good practices on offer to staff. Teachers in the UK, get no data privacy or data protection training in their basic teacher training. That’s according to what I’ve been told so far from teacher trainers, CDP leaders, union members and teachers themselves,

Would you train fire fighters without ever letting them have hose practice?

Infrastructure is known to be exposed and under invested, but it’s not all about the tech. Security investment must also be in people.

Systemic failures seen this week revealed by WannaCry are not limited to the NHS. This from George Danezis could be, with few tweaks, copy pasted into education. So the question is not if, but when the same happens in education, unless it’s fixed.

“…from poor security standards in heath informatics industries; poor procurement processes in heath organizations; lack of liability on any of the software vendors (incl. Microsoft) for providing insecure software or devices; cost-cutting from the government on NHS cyber security with no constructive alternatives to mitigate risks; and finally the UK/US cyber-offense doctrine that inevitably leads to proliferation of cyber-weapons and their use on civilian critical infrastructures.” [Original post]

Failing a generation is not what post-Brexit Britain needs

Basically Britain needs Prof. Brian Cox shaping education policy:

“If it were up to me I would increase pay and conditions and levels of responsibility and respect significantly, because it is an investment that would pay itself back many times over in the decades to come.”

Don’t use children as ‘measurement probes’ to test schools

What effect does using school exam results to reform the school system have on children? And what effect does it have on society?

Last autumn Ofqual published a report and their study on consistency of exam marking and metrics.

The report concluded that half of pupils in English Literature, as an example, are not awarded the “correct” grade on a particular exam paper due to marking inconsistencies and the design of the tests.
Given the complexity and sensitivity of the data, Ofqual concluded, it is essential that the metrics stand up to scrutiny and that there is a very clear understanding behind the meaning and application of any quality of marking.  They wrote that, “there are dangers that information from metrics (particularly when related to grade boundaries) could be used out of context.”

Context and accuracy are fundamental to the value of and trust in these tests. And at the moment, trust is not high in the system behind it. There must also be trust in policy behind the system.

This summer two sets of UK school tests, will come under scrutiny. GCSEs and SATS. The goal posts are moving for children and schools across the country. And it’s bad for children and bad for Britain.

Grades A-G will be swapped for numbers 1 -9

GCSE sitting 15-16 year olds will see their exams shift to a numerical system, scoring from the highest Grade 9 to Grade 1, with the three top grades replacing the current A and A*. The alphabetical grading system will be fully phased out by 2019.

The plans intended that roughly the same proportion of students as have achieved a Grade C will be awarded a new Grade 4 and as Schools Week reported: “There will be two GCSE pass rates in school performance tables.”

One will measure grade 5s or above, and this will be called the ‘strong’ pass rate. And the other will measure grade 4s or above, and this will be the ‘standard’ pass rate.

Laura McInerney summed up, “in some senses, it’s not a bad idea as it will mean it is easier to see if the measures are comparable. We can check if the ‘standard’ rate is better or worse over the next few years. (This is particularly good for the DfE who have been told off by the government watchdog for fiddling about with data so much that no one can tell if anything has worked anymore).”

There’s plenty of confusion in parents, how the numerical grading system will work. The confusion you can gauge in playground conversations, is also reflected nationally in a more measurable way.

Market research in a range of audiences – including businesses, head teachers, universities, colleges, parents and pupils – found that just 31 per cent of secondary school pupils and 30 per cent of parents were clear on the new numerical grading system.

So that’s a change in the GCSE grading structure. But why? If more differentiators are needed, why not add one or two more letters and shift grade boundaries? A policy need for these changes is unclear.

Machine marking is training on ten year olds

I wonder if any of the shift to numerical marking, is due in any part to a desire to move GCSEs in future to machine marking?

This year, ten and eleven year olds, children in their last year of primary school, will have their SATs tests computer marked.

That’s everything in maths and English. Not multiple choice papers or one word answers, but full written responses. If their f, b or g doesn’t look like the correct  letter in the correct place in the sentence, then it gains no marks.

Parents are concerned about children whose handwriting is awful, but their knowledge is not. How well can they hope to be assessed? If exams are increasingly machine marked out of sight, many sent to India, where is our oversight of the marking process and accuracy?

The concerns I’ve heard simply among local parents and staff, seem reflected in national discussions and the assessor, Oftsed. TES has reported Ofsted’s most senior officials as saying that the inspectorate is just as reluctant to use this year’s writing assessments as it was in 2016. Teachers and parents locally are united in feeling it is not accurate, not fair, and not right.

The content is also to be tougher.

How will we know what is being accurately measured and the accuracy of the metrics with content changes at the same time? How will we know if children didn’t make the mark, or if the marks were simply not awarded?

The accountability of the process is less than transparent to pupils and parents. We have little opportunity for Ofqual’s recommended scrutiny of these metrics, or the data behind the system on our kids.

Causation, correlation and why we should care

The real risk is that no one will be able to tell if there is an error, where it stems from, and where there is a reason if pass rates should be markedly different from what was expected.

After the wide range of changes across pupil attainment, exam content, school progress scores, and their interaction and dependencies, can they all fit together and be comparable with the past at all?

If the SATS are making lots of mistakes simply due to being bad at reading ten year’ old’s handwriting, how will we know?

Or if GCSE scores are lower, will we be able to see if it is because they have genuinely differentiated the results in a wider spread, and stretched out the fail, pass and top passes more strictly than before?

What is likely, is that this year’s set of children who were expecting As and A star at GCSE but fail to be the one of the two children nationally who get the new grade 9, will be disappointed to feel they are not, after all, as great as they thought they were.

And next year, if you can’t be the one or two to get the top mark, will the best simply stop stretching themselves and rest a bit easier, because, whatever, you won’t get that straight grade As anyway?

Even if children would not change behaviours were they to know, the target range scoring sent by third party data processors to schools, discourages teachers from stretching those at the top.

Politicians look for positive progress, but policies are changing that will increase the number of schools deemed to have failed. Why?

Our children’s results are being used to reform the school system.

Coasting and failing schools can be compelled to become academies.

Government policy on this forced academisation was rejected by popular revolt. It appears that the government is determined that schools *will* become academies with the same fervour that they *will* re-introduce grammar schools. Both are unevidenced and unwanted. But there is a workaround.  Create evidence. Make the successful scores harder to achieve, and more will be seen to fail.

A total of 282 secondary schools in England were deemed to be failing by the government this January, as they “have not met a new set of national standards”.

It is expected that even more will attain ‘less’ this summer. Tim Leunig, Chief Analyst & Chief Scientific Adviser Department for Education, made a personal guess at two reaching the top mark.

The context of this GCSE ‘failure’ is the changes in how schools are measured. Children’s progress over 8 subjects, or “P8” is being used as an accountability measure of overall school quality.

But it’s really just: “a school’s average Attainment 8 score adjusted for pupils’ Key Stage 2 attainment.” [Dave Thomson, Education Datalab]

Work done by FFT Education Datalab showed that contextualising P8 scores can lead to large changes for some schools.  (Read more here and here). You cannot meaningfully compare schools with different types of intake, but it appears that the government is determined to do so. Starting ever younger if new plans go ahead.

Data is being reshaped to tell stories to fit to policy.

Shaping children’s future

What this reshaping doesn’t factor in at all, is the labelling of a generation or more, with personal failure, from age ten and up.

All this tinkering with the data, isn’t just data.

It’s tinkering badly with our kids sense of self, their sense of achievement, aspiration, and with that; the country’s future.

Education reform has become the aim, and it has replaced the aims of education.

Post-Brexit Britain doesn’t need policy that delivers ideology. We don’t need “to use children as ‘measurement probes’ to test schools.

Just as we shouldn’t use children’s educational path to test their net worth or cost to the economy. Or predict it in future.

Children’s education and human value cannot be measured in data.

The perfect storm: three bills that will destroy student data privacy in England

Lords have voiced criticism and concern at plans for ‘free market’ universities, that will prioritise competition over collaboration and private interests over social good. But while both Houses have identified the institutional effects, they are yet to discuss the effects on the individuals of a bill in which “too much power is concentrated in the centre”.

The Higher Education and Research Bill sucks in personal data to the centre, as well as power. It creates an authoritarian panopticon of the people within the higher education and further education systems. Section 1, parts 72-74 creates risks but offers no safeguards.

Applicants and students’ personal data is being shifted into a  top-down management model, at the same time as the horizontal safeguards for its distribution are to be scrapped.

Through deregulation and the building of a centralised framework, these bills will weaken the purposes for which personal data are collected, and weaken existing requirements on consent to which the data may be used at national level. Without amendments, every student who enters this system will find their personal data used at the discretion of any future Secretary of State for Education without safeguards or oversight, and forever. Goodbye privacy.

Part of the data extraction plans are for use in public interest research in safe settings with published purpose, governance, and benefit. These are well intentioned and this year’s intake of students will have had to accept that use as part of the service in the privacy policy.

But in addition and separately, the Bill will permit data to be used at the discretion of the Secretary of State, which waters down and removes nuances of consent for what data may or may not be used today when applicants sign up to UCAS.

Applicants today are told in the privacy policy they can consent separately to sharing their data with the Student Loans company for example. This Bill will remove that right when it permits all Applicant data to be used by the State.

This removal of today’s consent process denies all students their rights to decide who may use their personal data beyond the purposes for which they permit its sharing.

And it explicitly overrides the express wishes registered by the 28,000 applicants, 66% of respondents to a 2015 UCAS survey, who said as an example, that they should be asked before any data was provided to third parties for student loan applications (or even that their data should never be provided for this).

Not only can the future purposes be changed without limitation,  by definition, when combined with other legislation, namely the Digital Economy Bill that is in the Lords at the same time right now, this shift will pass personal data together with DWP and in connection with HMRC data expressly to the Student Loans Company.

In just this one example, the Higher Education and Research Bill is being used as a man in the middle. But it will enable all data for broad purposes, and if those expand in future, we’ll never know.

This change, far from making more data available to public interest research, shifts the balance of power between state and citizen and undermines the very fabric of its source of knowledge; the creation and collection of personal data.

Further, a number of amendments have been proposed in the Lords to clause 9 (the transparency duty) which raise more detailed privacy issues for all prospective students, concerns UCAS share.

Why this lack of privacy by design is damaging

This shift takes away our control, and gives it to the State at the very time when ‘take back control’ is in vogue. These bills are building a foundation for a data Brexit.

If the public does not trust who will use it and why or are told that when they provide data they must waive any rights to its future control, they will withhold or fake data. 8% of applicants even said it would put them off applying through UCAS at all.

And without future limitation, what might be imposed is unknown.

This shortsightedness will ultimately cause damage to data integrity and the damage won’t come in education data from the Higher Education Bill alone. The Higher Education and Research Bill is just one of three bills sweeping through Parliament right now which build a cumulative anti-privacy storm together, in what is labelled overtly as data sharing legislation or is hidden in tucked away clauses.

The Technical and Further Education Bill – Part 3

In addition to entirely new Applicant datasets moving from UCAS to the DfE in clauses 73 and 74 of the  Higher Education and Research Bill,  Apprentice and FE student data already under the Secretary of State for Education will see potentially broader use under changed purposes of Part 3 of the Technical and Further Education Bill.

Unlike the Higher Education and Research Bill, it may not fundamentally changing how the State gathers information on further education, but it has the potential to do so on use.

The change is a generalisation of purposes. Currently, subsection 1 of section 54 refers to “purposes of the exercise of any of the functions of the Secretary of State under Part 4 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009”.

Therefore, the government argues, “it would not hold good in circumstances where certain further education functions were transferred from the Secretary of State to some combined authorities in England, which is due to happen in 2018.”<

This is why clause 38 will amend that wording to “purposes connected with further education”.

Whatever the details of the reason, the purposes are broader.

Again, combined with the Digital Economy Bill’s open ended purposes, it means the Secretary of State could agree to pass these data on to every other government department, a range of public bodies, and some private organisations.

The TFE BIll is at Report stage in the House of Commons on January 9, 2017.

What could go possibly go wrong?

These loose purposes, without future restrictions, definitions of third parties it could be given to or why, or clear need to consult the public or parliament on future scope changes, is a  repeat of similar legislative changes which have resulted in poor data practices using school pupil data in England age 2-19 since 2000.

Policy makers should consider whether the intent of these three bills is to give out identifiable, individual level, confidential data of young people under 18, for commercial use without their consent? Or to journalists and charities access? Should it mean unfettered access by government departments and agencies such as police and Home Office Removals Casework teams without any transparent register of access, any oversight, or accountability?

These are today’s uses by third-parties of school children’s individual, identifiable and sensitive data from the National Pupil Database.

Uses of data not as statistics, but named individuals for interventions in individual lives.

If the Home Secretaries past and present have put international students at the centre of plans to cut migration to the tens of thousands and government refuses to take student numbers out of migration figures, despite them being seen as irrelevant in the substance of the numbers debate, this should be deeply worrying.

Will the MOU between the DfE and the Home Office Removals Casework team be a model for access to all student data held at the Department for Education, even all areas of public administrative data?

Hoping that the data transfers to the Home Office won’t result in the deportation of thousands we would not predict today, may be naive.

Under the new open wording, the Secretary of State for Education might even  decide to sell the nation’s entire Technical and Further Education student data to Trump University for the purposes of their ‘research’ to target marketing at UK students or institutions that may be potential US post-grad applicants. The Secretary of State will have the data simply because she “may require [it] for purposes connected with further education.”

And to think US buyers or others would not be interested is too late.

In 2015 Stanford University made a request of the National Pupil Database for both academic staff and students’ data. It was rejected. We know this only from the third party release register. Without any duty to publish requests, approved users or purposes of data release, where is the oversight for use of these other datasets?

If these are not the intended purposes of these three bills, if there should be any limitation on purposes of use and future scope change, then safeguards and oversight need built into the face of the bills to ensure data privacy is protected and avoid repeating the same again.

Hoping that the decision is always going to be, ‘they wouldn’t approve a request like that’ is not enough to protect millions of students privacy.

The three bills are a perfect privacy storm

As other Europeans seek to strengthen the fundamental rights of their citizens to take back control of their personal data under the GDPR coming into force in May 2018, the UK government is pre-emptively undermining ours in these three bills.

Young people, and data dependent institutions, are asking for solutions to show what personal data is held where, and used by whom, for what purposes. That buys in the benefit message that builds trust showing what you said you’d do with my data, is what you did with my data. [1] [2]

Reality is that in post-truth politics it seems anything goes, on both sides of the Pond. So how will we trust what our data is used for?

2015-16 advice from the cross party Science and Technology Committee suggested data privacy is unsatisfactory, “to be left unaddressed by Government and without a clear public-policy position set out“.  We hear the need for data privacy debated about use of consumer data, social media, and on using age verification. It’s necessary to secure the public trust needed for long term public benefit and for economic value derived from data to be achieved.

But the British government seems intent on shortsighted legislation which does entirely the opposite for its own use: in the Higher Education Bill, the Technical and Further Education Bill and in the Digital Economy Bill.

These bills share what Baroness Chakrabarti said of the Higher Education Bill in its Lords second reading on the 6th December, “quite an achievement for a policy to combine both unnecessary authoritarianism with dangerous degrees of deregulation.”

Unchecked these Bills create the conditions needed for catastrophic failure of public trust. They shift ever more personal data away from personal control, into the centralised control of the Secretary of State for unclear purposes and use by undefined third parties. They jeopardise the collection and integrity of public administrative data.

To future-proof the immediate integrity of student personal data collection and use, the DfE reputation, and public and professional trust in DfE political leadership, action must be taken on safeguards and oversight, and should consider:

  • Transparency register: a public record of access, purposes, and benefits to be achieved from use
  • Subject Access Requests: Providing the public ways to access copies of their own data
  • Consent procedures should be strengthened for collection and cannot say one thing, and do another
  • Ability to withdraw consent from secondary purposes should be built in by design, looking to GDPR from 2018
  • Clarification of the legislative purpose of intended current use by the Secretary of State and its boundaries shoud be clear
  • Future purpose and scope change limitations should require consultation – data collected today must not used quite differently tomorrow without scrutiny and ability to opt out (i.e. population wide registries of religion, ethnicity, disability)
  • Review or sunset clause

If the legislation in these three bills pass without amendment, the potential damage to privacy will be lasting.


[1] http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2016-07-15/42942/  Parliamentary written question 42942 on the collection of pupil nationality data in the school census starting in September 2016:   “what limitations will be placed by her Department on disclosure of such information to (a) other government departments?”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb responded on July 25th 2016: ”

“These new data items will provide valuable statistical information on the characteristics of these groups of children […] “The data will be collected solely for internal Departmental use for the analytical, statistical and research purposes described above. There are currently no plans to share the data with other government Departments”

[2] December 15, publication of MOU between the Home Office  Casework Removals Team and the DfE, reveals “the previous agreement “did state that DfE would provide nationality information to the Home Office”, but that this was changed “following discussions” between the two departments.” http://schoolsweek.co.uk/dfe-had-agreement-to-share-pupil-nationality-data-with-home-office/ 

The agreement was changed on 7th October 2016 to not pass nationality data over. It makes no mention of not using the data within the DfE for the same purposes.

Datasharing, lawmaking and ethics: power, practice and public policy

“Lawmaking is the Wire, not Schoolhouse Rock. It’s about blood and war and power, not evidence and argument and policy.”

"We can't trust the regulators," they say. "We need to be able to investigate the data for ourselves." Technology seems to provide the perfect solution. Just put it all online - people can go through the data while trusting no one.  There's just one problem. If you can't trust the regulators, what makes you think you can trust the data?" 

Extracts from The Boy Who Could Change the World: The Writings of Aaron Swartz. Chapter: ‘When is Technology Useful? ‘ June 2009.

The question keeps getting asked, is the concept of ethics obsolete in Big Data?

I’ve come to some conclusions why ‘Big Data’ use keeps pushing the boundaries of what many people find acceptable, and yet the people doing the research, the regulators and lawmakers often express surprise at negative reactions. Some even express disdain for public opinion, dismissing it as ignorant, not ‘understanding the benefits’, yet to be convinced. I’ve decided why I think what is considered ‘ethical’ in data science does not meet public expectation.

It’s not about people.

Researchers using large datasets, often have a foundation in data science, applied computing, maths, and don’t see data as people. It’s only data. Creating patterns, correlations, and analysis of individual level data are not seen as research involving human subjects.

This is embodied in the nth number of research ethics reviews I have read in the last year in which the question is asked, does the research involve people? The answer given is invariably ‘no’.

And these data analysts using, let’s say health data, are not working in a subject that is founded on any ethical principle, contrasting with the medical world the data come from.

The public feels differently about the information that is about them, and may be known, only to them or select professionals. The values that we as the public attach to our data  and expectations of its handling may reflect the expectation we have of handling of us as people who are connected to it. We see our data as all about us.

The values that are therefore put on data, and on how it can and should be used, can be at odds with one another, the public perception is not reciprocated by the researchers. This may be especially true if researchers are using data which has been de-identified, although it may not be anonymous.

New legislation on the horizon, the Better Use of Data in Government,  intends to fill the [loop]hole between what was legal to share in the past and what some want to exploit today, and emphasises a gap in the uses of data by public interest, academic researchers, and uses by government actors. The first incorporate by-and-large privacy and anonymisation techniques by design, versus the second designed for applied use of identifiable data.

Government departments and public bodies want to identify and track people who are somehow misaligned with the values of the system; either through fraud, debt, Troubled Families, or owing Student Loans. All highly sensitive subjects. But their ethical data science framework will not treat them as individuals, but only as data subjects. Or as groups who share certain characteristics.

The system again intrinsically fails to see these uses of data as being about individuals, but sees them as categories of people – “fraud” “debt” “Troubled families.” It is designed to profile people.

Services that weren’t built for people, but for government processes, result in datasets used in research, that aren’t well designed for research. So we now see attempts to shoehorn historical practices into data use  by modern data science practitioners, with policy that is shortsighted.

We can’t afford for these things to be so off axis, if civil service thinking is exploring “potential game-changers such as virtual reality for citizens in the autism spectrum, biometrics to reduce fraud, and data science and machine-learning to automate decisions.”

In an organisation such as DWP this must be really well designed since “the scale at which we operate is unprecedented: with 800 locations and 85,000  colleagues, we’re larger than most retail operations.”

The power to affect individual lives through poor technology is vast and some impacts seem to be being badly ignored. The ‘‘real time earnings’ database improved accuracy of benefit payments was widely agreed to have been harmful to some individuals through the Universal Credit scheme, with delayed payments meaning families at foodbanks, and contributing to worse.

“We believe execution is the major job of every business leader,” perhaps not the best wording in on DWP data uses.

What accountability will be built-by design?

I’ve been thinking recently about drawing a social ecological model of personal data empowerment or control. Thinking about visualisation of wants, gaps and consent models, to show rather than tell policy makers where these gaps exist in public perception and expectations, policy and practice. If anyone knows of one on data, please shout. I think it might be helpful.

But the data *is* all about people

Regardless whether they are in front of you or numbers on a screen, big or small datasets using data about real lives are data about people. And that triggers a need to treat the data with an ethical approach as you would people involved face-to-face.

Researchers need to stop treating data about people as meaningless data because that’s not how people think about their own data being used. Not only that, but if the whole point of your big data research is to have impact, your data outcomes, will change lives.

Tosh, I know some say. But, I have argued, the reason being is that the applications of the data science/ research/ policy findings / impact of immigration in education review / [insert purposes of the data user’s choosing] are designed to have impact on people. Often the people about whom the research is done without their knowledge or consent. And while most people say that is OK, where it’s public interest research, the possibilities are outstripping what the public has expressed as acceptable, and few seem to care.

Evidence from public engagement and ethics all say, hidden pigeon-holing, profiling, is unacceptable. Data Protection law has special requirements for it, on autonomous decisions. ‘Profiling’ is now clearly defined under article 4 of the GDPR as ” any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of using those data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.”

Using big datasets for research that ‘isn’t interested in individuals’ may still intend to create results profiling groups for applied policing, or discriminate, to make knowledge available by location. The data may have been deidentified, but in application becomes no longer anonymous.

Big Data research that results in profiling groups with the intent for applied health policy impacts for good, may by the very point of research, with the intent of improving a particular ethnic minority access to services, for example.

Then look at the voting process changes in North Carolina and see how that same data, the same research knowledge might be applied to exclude, to restrict rights, and to disempower.

Is it possible to have ethical oversight that can protect good data use and protect people’s rights if they conflict with the policy purposes?

The “clear legal basis”is not enough for public trust

Data use can be legal and can still be unethical, harmful and shortsighted in many ways, for both the impacts on research – in terms of withholding data and falsifying data and avoiding the system to avoid giving in data – and the lives it will touch.

What education has to learn from health is whether it will permit the uses by ‘others’ outside education to jeopardise the collection of school data intended in the best interests of children, not the system. In England it must start to analyse what is needed vs wanted. What is necessary and proportionate and justifies maintaining named data indefinitely, exposed to changing scope.

In health, the most recent Caldicott review suggests scope change by design – that is a red line for many: “For that reason the Review recommends that, in due course, the opt-out should not apply to all flows of information into the HSCIC. This requires careful consideration with the primary care community.”

The community spoke out already, and strongly in Spring and Summer 2014 that there must be an absolute right to confidentiality to protect patients’ trust in the system. Scope that ‘sounds’ like it might sneakily change in future, will be a death knell to public interest research, because repeated trust erosion will be fatal.

Laws change to allow scope change without informing people whose data are being used for different purposes

Regulators must be seen to be trusted, if the data they regulate is to be trustworthy. Laws and regulators that plan scope for the future watering down of public protection, water down public trust from today. Unethical policy and practice, will not be saved by pseudo-data-science ethics.

Will those decisions in private political rooms be worth the public cost to research, to policy, and to the lives it will ultimately affect?

What happens when the ethical black holes in policy, lawmaking and practice collide?

At the last UK HealthCamp towards the end of the day, when we discussed the hard things, the topic inevitably moved swiftly to consent, to building big databases, public perception, and why anyone would think there is potential for abuse, when clearly the intended use is good.

The answer came back from one of the participants, “OK now it’s the time to say. Because, Nazis.” Meaning, let’s learn from history.

Given the state of UK politics, Go Home van policies, restaurant raids, the possibility of Trump getting access to UK sensitive data of all sorts from across the Atlantic, given recent policy effects on the rights of the disabled and others, I wonder if we would hear the gentle laughter in the room in answer to the same question today.

With what is reported as Whitehall’s digital leadership sharp change today, the future of digital in government services and policy and lawmaking does indeed seem to be more “about blood and war and power,” than “evidence and argument and policy“.

The concept of ethics in datasharing using public data in the UK is far from becoming obsolete. It has yet to begin.

We have ethical black holes in big data research, in big data policy, and big data practices in England. The conflicts between public interest research and government uses of population wide datasets, how the public perceive the use of our data and how they are used, gaps and tensions in policy and practice are there.

We are simply waiting for the Big Bang. Whether it will be creative, or destructive we are yet to feel.

*****

image credit: LIGO – graphical visualisation of black holes on the discovery of gravitational waves

References:

Report: Caldicott review – National Data Guardian for Health and Care Review of Data Security, Consent and Opt-Outs 2016

Report: The OneWay Mirror: Public attitudes to commercial access to health data

Royal Statistical Society Survey carried out by Ipsos MORI: The Data Trust Deficit

Can new datasharing laws win social legitimacy, public trust and support without public engagement?

I’ve been struck by stories I’ve heard on the datasharing consultation, on data science, and on data infrastructures as part of ‘government as a platform’ (#GaaPFuture) in recent weeks. The audio recorded by the Royal Statistical Society on March 17th is excellent, and there were some good questions asked.

There were even questions from insurance backed panels to open up more data for commercial users, and calls for journalists to be seen as accredited researchers, as well as to include health data sharing. Three things that some stakeholders, all users of data, feel are  missing from consultation, and possibly some of those with the most widespread public concern and lowest levels of public trust. [1]

What I feel is missing in consultation discussions are:

  1. a representative range of independent public voice
  2. a compelling story of needs – why tailored public services benefits citizens from whom data is taken, not only benefits data users
  3. the impacts we expect to see in local government
  4. any cost/risk/benefit assessment of those impacts, or for citizens
  5. how the changes will be independently evaluated – as some are to be reviewed

The Royal Statistical Society and ODI have good summaries here of their thoughts, more geared towards the statistical and research aspects of data,  infrastructure and the consultation.

I focus on the other strands that use identifiable data for targeted interventions. Tailored public services, Debt, Fraud, Energy Companies’ use. I think we talk too little of people, and real needs.

Why the State wants more datasharing is not yet a compelling story and public need and benefit seem weak.

So far the creation of new data intermediaries, giving copies of our personal data to other public bodies  – and let’s be clear that this often means through commercial representatives like G4S, Atos, Management consultancies and more –  is yet to convince me of true public needs for the people, versus wants from parts of the State.

What the consultation hopes to achieve, is new powers of law, to give increased data sharing increased legal authority. However this alone will not bring about the social legitimacy of datasharing that the consultation appears to seek through ‘open policy making’.

Legitimacy is badly needed if there is to be public and professional support for change and increased use of our personal data as held by the State, which is missing today,  as care.data starkly exposed. [2]

The gap between Social Legitimacy and the Law

Almost 8 months ago now, before I knew about the datasharing consultation work-in-progress, I suggested to BIS that there was an opportunity for the UK to drive excellence in public involvement in the use of public data by getting real engagement, through pro-active consent.

The carrot for this, is achieving the goal that government wants – greater legal clarity, the use of a significant number of consented people’s personal data for complex range of secondary uses as a secondary benefit.

It was ignored.

If some feel entitled to the right to infringe on citizens’ privacy through a new legal gateway because they believe the public benefit outweighs private rights, then they must also take on the increased balance of risk of doing so, and a responsibility to  do so safely. It is in principle a slippery slope. Any new safeguards and ethics for how this will be done are however unclear in those data strands which are for targeted individual interventions. Especially if predictive.

Upcoming discussions on codes of practice [which have still to be shared] should demonstrate how this is to happen in practice, but codes are not sufficient. Laws which enable will be pushed to their borderline of legal and beyond that of ethical.

In England who would have thought that the 2013 changes that permitted individual children’s data to be given to third parties [3] for educational purposes, would mean giving highly sensitive, identifiable data to journalists without pupils or parental consent? The wording allows it. It is legal. However it fails the DPA Act legal requirement of fair processing.  Above all, it lacks social legitimacy and common sense.

In Scotland, there is current anger over the intrusive ‘named person’ laws which lack both professional and public support and intrude on privacy. Concerns raised should be lessons to learn from in England.

Common sense says laws must take into account social legitimacy.

We have been told at the open policy meetings that this change will not remove the need for informed consent. To be informed, means creating the opportunity for proper communications, and also knowing how you can use the service without coercion, i.e. not having to consent to secondary data uses in order to get the service, and knowing to withdraw consent at any later date. How will that be offered with ways of achieving the removal of data after sharing?

The stick for change, is the legal duty that the recent 2015 CJEU ruling reiterating the legal duty to fair processing [4] waved about. Not just a nice to have, but State bodies’ responsibility to inform citizens when their personal data are used for purposes other than those for which those data had initially been consented and given. New legislation will not  remove this legal duty.

How will it be achieved without public engagement?

Engagement is not PR

Failure to act on what you hear from listening to the public is costly.

Engagement is not done *to* people, don’t think explain why we need the data and its public benefit’ will work. Policy makers must engage with fears and not seek to dismiss or diminish them, but acknowledge and mitigate them by designing technically acceptable solutions. Solutions that enable data sharing in a strong framework of privacy and ethics, not that sees these concepts as barriers. Solutions that have social legitimacy because people support them.

Mr Hunt’s promised February 2014 opt out of anonymised data being used in health research, has yet to be put in place and has had immeasurable costs for delayed public research, and public trust.

How long before people consider suing the DH as data controller for misuse? From where does the arrogance stem that decides to ignore legal rights, moral rights and public opinion of more people than those who voted for the Minister responsible for its delay?

 

This attitude is what fails care.data and the harm is ongoing to public trust and to confidence for researchers’ continued access to data.

The same failure was pointed out by the public members of the tiny Genomics England public engagement meeting two years ago in March 2014, called to respond to concerns over the lack of engagement and potential harm for existing research. The comms lead made a suggestion that the new model of the commercialisation of the human genome in England, to be embedded in the NHS by 2017 as standard clinical practice, was like steam trains in Victorian England opening up the country to new commercial markets. The analogy was felt by the lay attendees to be, and I quote, ‘ridiculous.’

Exploiting confidential personal data for public good must have support and good two-way engagement if it is to get that support, and what is said and agreed must be acted on to be trustworthy.

Policy makers must take into account broad public opinion, and that is unlikely to be submitted to a Parliamentary consultation. (Personally, I first knew such  processes existed only when care.data was brought before the Select Committee in 2014.) We already know what many in the public think about sharing their confidential data from the work with care.data and objections to third party access, to lack of consent. Just because some policy makers don’t like what was said, doesn’t make that public opinion any less valid.

We must bring to the table the public voice from past but recent public engagement work on administrative datasharing [5], the voice of the non-research community, and from those who are not stakeholders who will use the data but the ‘data subjects’, the public  whose data are to be used.

Policy Making must be built on Public Trust

Open policy making is not open just because it says it is. Who has been invited, participated, and how their views actually make a difference on content and implementation is what matters.

Adding controversial ideas at the last minute is terrible engagement, its makes the process less trustworthy and diminishes its legitimacy.

This last minute change suggests some datasharing will be dictated despite critical views in the policy making and without any public engagement. If so, we should ask policy makers on what mandate?

Democracy depends on social legitimacy. Once you lose public trust, it is not easy to restore.

Can new datasharing laws win social legitimacy, public trust and support without public engagement?

In my next post I’ll post look at some of the public engagement work done on datasharing to date, and think about ethics in how data are applied.

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References:

[1] The Royal Statistical Society data trust deficit

[2] “The social licence for research: why care.data ran into trouble,” by Carter et al.

[3] FAQs: Campaign for safe and ethical National Pupil Data

[4] CJEU Bara 2015 Ruling – fair processing between public bodies

[5] Public Dialogues using Administrative data (ESRC / ADRN)

img credit: flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/

The front door to our children’s personal data in schools

“EdTech UK will be a pro-active organisation building and accelerating a vibrant education and learning technology sector and leading new developments with our founding partners. It will also be a front door to government, educators, companies and investors from Britain and globally.”

Ian Fordham, CEO, EdTech UK

This front door is a gateway to access our children’s personal data and through it some companies are coming into our schools and homes and taking our data without asking.  And with that, our children lose control over their safeguarded digital identity. Forever.

Companies are all “committed to customer privacy” in those privacy policies which exist at all. However, typically this means they also share your information with ‘our affiliates, our licensors, our agents, our distributors and our suppliers’ and their circles are wide and often in perpetuity. Many simply don’t have a published policy.

Where do they store any data produced in the web session? Who may access it and use it for what purposes? Or how may they use the personal data associated with staff signing up with payment details?

According to research from London & Partners, championed by Boris Johnson, Martha Lane-Fox and others in EdTech, education is one of the fastest growing tech sectors in Britain and is worth £45bn globally; a number set to reach a staggering £129bn by 2020. And perhaps the EdTech diagrams in US dollars shows where the UK plan to draw companies from. If you build it, they will come.

The enthusiasm that some US EdTech type entrepreneurs I have met or listened to speak, is akin to religious fervour. Such is their drive for tech however, that they appear to forget that education is all about the child. Individual children. Not cohorts, or workforces. And even when they do it can be sincerely said, but lacks substance when you examine policies in practice.

How is the DfE measuring the cost and benefit of tech and its applications in education?

Is anyone willing to say not all tech is good tech, not every application is a wise application? Because every child is unique, not every app is one size fits all?

My 7-yo got so caught up in the game and in the mastery of the app their class was prescribed for homework in the past, that she couldn’t master the maths and harmed her confidence. (Imagine something like this, clicking on the two correct sheep with numbers stamped on them, that together add up to 12, for example, before they fall off and die.)

She has no problem with maths. Nor doing sums under pressure. She told me happily today she’d come joint second in a speed tables test. That particular app style simply doesn’t suit her.

I wonder if other children and parents find the same and if so, how would we know if these apps do more harm than good?

Nearly 300,000 young people in Britain have an anxiety disorder according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Feeling watched all the time on-and offline is unlikely to make anxiety any better.

How can the public and parents know that edTech which comes into the home with their children, is behaviourally sound?

How can the public and parents know that edTech which affects their children, is ethically sound in both security and application?

Where is the measured realism in the providers’ and policy makers fervour when both seek to marketise edTech and our personal data for the good of the economy, and ‘in the public interest’.

Just because we can, does not always mean we should. Simply because data linkage is feasible, even if it brings public benefit, cannot point blank mean it will always be in our best interest.

In whose best Interest is it anyway?

Right now, I’m not convinced that the digital policies at the heart of the Department for Education, the EdTech drivers or many providers have our children’s best interests at heart at all. It’s all about the economy; when talking if at all about children using the technology, many talk only of ‘preparing the workforce’.

Are children and parents asked to consent at individual level to the terms and conditions of the company and told what data will be extracted from the school systems about their child? Or do schools simply sign up their children and parents en masse, seeing it as part of their homework management system?

How much ‘real’ personal data they use varies. Some use only pseudo-IDs assigned by the teacher. Others log, store and share everything they do assigned to their ID or real email address , store performance over time and provide personalised reports of results.

Teachers and schools have a vital role to play in understanding data ethics and privacy to get this right and speaking to many, it doesn’t seem something they feel well equipped to do. Parents aren’t always asked. But should schools not always have to ask before giving data to a commercial third party or when not in an ’emergency’ situation?

I love tech. My children love making lego robots move with code. Or driving drones with bananas. Or animation. Technology offers opportunity for application in and outside schools for children that are fascinating, and worthy, and of benefit.

If however all parents are to protect children’s digital identity for future, and to be able to hand over any control and integrity over their personal data to them as adults,  we must better accommodate children’s data privacy in this 2016 gold rush for EdTech.

Pupils and parents need to be assured their software is both educationally and ethically sound.  Who defines those standards?

Who is in charge of Driving, Miss Morgan?

Microsoft’s vice-president of worldwide education, recently opened the BETT exhibition and praised teachers for using technology to achieve amazing things in the classroom, and urged innovators to  “join hands as a global community in driving this change”.

While there is a case to say no exposure to technology in today’s teaching would be neglectful, there is a stronger duty to ensure exposure to technology is positive and inclusive, not harmful.

Who regulates that?

We are on the edge of an explosion of tech and children’s personal data ‘sharing’ with third parties in education.

Where is its oversight?

The community of parents and children are at real risk of being completely left out these decisions, and exploited.

The upcoming “safeguarding” policies online are a joke if the DfE tells us loudly to safeguard children’s identity out front, and quietly gives their personal data away for cash round the back.

The front door to our children’s data “for government, educators, companies and investors from Britain and globally” is wide open.

Behind the scenes  in pupil data privacy, it’s a bit of a mess. And these policy makers and providers forgot to ask first,  if they could come in.

If we build it, would you come?

My question now is, if we could build something better on pupil data privacy AND better data use, what would it look like?

Could we build an assessment model of the collection, use and release of data in schools that could benefit pupils and parents, AND educational establishments and providers?

This could be a step towards future-proofing public trust which will be vital for companies who want a foot-in-the door of EdTech. Design an ethical framework for digital decision making and a practical data model for use in Education.

Educationally and ethically sound.

If together providers, policy makers, schools at group Trust level, could meet with Data Protection and Privacy civil society experts to shape a tool kit of how to assess privacy impact, to ensure safeguarding and freedoms, enable safe data flow and help design cybersecurity that works for them and protects children’s privacy that is lacking today, designing for tomorrow, would you come?

Which door will we choose?

*******

image credit: @ Ben Buschfeld Wikipedia

*added February 13th: Oftsed Chair sought from US

Monitoring software in schools: the Department for Education’s digital dream or nightmare? (2)

“Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment on ‘The aims of education’, 2001).

The Digital Skills in Schools inquiry [1] is examining the gap in education of our children to enable them to be citizens fit for the future.

We have an “educational gap” in digital skills and I have suggested it should not be seen only as functional or analytical, but should also address a gap in ethical skills and framework to equip our young people to understand their digital rights, as well as responsibilities.

Children must be enabled in education with opportunity to understand how they can grow “to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity”. [2]

Freedom to use the internet in privacy does not mean having to expose children to risks, but we should ask, are there ways of implementing practices which are more proportionate, and less intrusive than monitoring and logging keywords [3] for every child in the country? What problem is the DfE trying to solve and how?

Nicky Morgan’s “fantastic” GPS tracking App

The second technology tool Nicky Morgan mentioned in her BETT speech on January 22nd, is an app with GPS tracking and alerts creation. Her app verdict was “excellent” and “fantastic”:

“There are excellent examples at the moment such as the Family First app by Group Call. It uses GPS in mobile phones to help parents keep track of their children’s whereabouts, allowing them to check that they have arrived safely to school, alerting them if they stray from their usual schedule.” [4]

I’m not convinced tracking every child’s every move is either excellent or fantastic. Primarily because it will foster a nation of young people who feel untrusted, and I see a risk it could create a lower sense of self-reliance, self-confidence and self-responsibility.

Just as with the school software monitoring [see part one], there will be a chilling effect on children’s freedom if these technologies become the norm. If you fear misusing a word in an online search, or worry over stigma what others think, would you not change your behaviour? Our young people need to feel both secure and trusted at school.

How we use digital in schools shapes our future society

A population that trusts one another and trusts its government and organisations and press, is vital to a well functioning society.

If we want the benefits of a global society, datasharing for example to contribute to medical advance, people must understand how their own data and digital footprint fits into a bigger picture to support it.

In schools today pupils and parents are not informed that their personal confidential data are given to commercial third parties by the Department for Education at national level [5]. Preventing public engagement, hiding current practices, downplaying the risks of how data are misused, also prevents fair and transparent discussion of its benefits and how to do it better. Better, like making it accessible only in a secure setting not handing data out to Fleet Street.

For children this holds back public involvement in the discussion of the roles of technology in their own future. Fear of public backlash over poor practices must not hold back empowering our children’s understanding of digital skills and how their digital identity matters.

Digital skills are not shorthand for coding, but critical life skills

Skills our society will need must simultaneously manage the benefits to society and deal with great risks that will come with these advances in technology; advances in artificial intelligence, genomics, and autonomous robots, to select only three examples.

There is a glaring gap in their education how their own confidential personal data and digital footprint fit a globally connected society, and how they are used by commercial business and third parties.

There are concerns how apps could be misused by others too.

If we are to consider what is missing in our children’s preparations for life in which digital will no longer be a label but a way of life, then to identify the gap, we must first consider what we see as whole.

Rather than keeping children safe in education, as regards data sharing and digital privacy, the DfE seems happy to keep them ignorant. This is no way to treat our young people and develop their digital skills, just as giving their data away is not good cyber security.

What does a Dream for a  great ‘digital’ Society look like?

Had Martin Luther King lived to be 87 he would have continued to inspire hope and to challenge us to fulfill his dream for society – where everyone would have an equal opportunity for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Moving towards that goal, supported with technology, with ethical codes of practice, my dream is we see a more inclusive, fulfilled, sustainable and happier society. We must educate our children as fully rounded digital and data savvy individuals, who trust themselves and systems they use, and are well treated by others.

Sadly, introductions of these types of freedom limiting technologies for our children, risk instead that it may be a society in which many people do not feel comfortable, that lost sight of the value of privacy.

References:

[1] Digital Skills Inquiry: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/science-and-technology-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/digital-skills-inquiry-15-16/

[2] UN Convention of the Rights of the Child

[3] Consultation: Keeping Children Safe in Education – closing Feb 16thThe “opportunities to teach safeguarding” section (para 77-78) has been updated and now says governing bodies and proprieties “should ensure” rather than “should consider” that children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities.

The Consultation Guidance: most relevant paragraphs 75 and 77 p 22

[4] Nicky Morgan’s full speech at BETT

[5] The defenddigitalme campaign to ask the Department forEducation to change practices and policy around The National Pupil Database