In a recent blog article from the London School of Economics, concerns were raised about ClassDojo and the question of data protection. Although some of the issues raised in the article speculate around any potential changes to how the service is run, the one that caught my eye and I feel could be relevant for schools as more and more of these social media and cloud based services are used the in schools is that of consent.
It all hangs around the need to obtain informed consent from parents/guardian. As with many of these services it is left to the school to ensure that the appropriate agreement for use is obtained either from the parent/guardian or if the child is of an age that they understand the issues, they can give consent. Depending on what it is they are being asked to give consent for and the capacity of the child to make and informed decision this age is seen to around 14 years old in the EU. However, there is no legal definition surrounding this but can be seen as the ability to give informed consent. You may also have seen the recent report from the Children’s Commissioner ‘Growing up Digital’ which raises concerns about consent and young peoples understanding of terms and conditions. In the case of primary age children and lower secondary the expectation would be that this consent should be sought from the parents or guardian.
Organisations such as Google have been highlighting this when responding to the DfE Cloud Software Services guidance, making it clear that getting the responsibility for its use is down to the school. On page 30 of their response it states;
‘Your school assumes the responsibility for complying with child privacy protection policies. Per the Google Apps Education Edition Agreement, any school administering Google Apps Education Edition acknowledges and agrees that it is solely responsible for compliance including, but not limited to, obtaining parental consent concerning collection of students’ personal information used in connection with the provisioning and use of the Services by the Customer and End Users.Parental consent and notification could take place in form of a permission slip granting use of Google Apps and/or other technology services at the school.’
It is really important that schools think about how they will obtain this consent and ensuring that the information is up to date. It could form part of the schools acceptable use policy or annual data collection form, but most importantly it should be sought and parents need informing. We mustn’t take these things for granted as we get closer the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations in May 2018 as this will increase the need for ‘opting in’ rather that ‘opting out’ particularly when it comes to protecting children and young people.