DP & FOI. Coming to a school near you.

It may have sneaked under the radar in and around Xmas but an FOI request in Wales to schools produced some alarming stats.

There are at least 2,840 cameras in schools across Wales, one school in Cardiff has 40 cameras for around 190 pupils. Just over a third of all the schools in Wales responded to the Freedom of Information Act request asking about CCTV use on their premises. That means that two thirds don’t do CCTV or worse than that they didn‘t realise they had to reply to FOI requests.

Of the 602 that replied, 519 provided some or all of the information requested while 83 refused to answer any of the questions.

Of those surveyed, 54% admitted they had not given full information about the location of cameras and times they were filming to parents.

This is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. If you use CCTV cameras you tell people likely to be filmed that you are doing it. It’s called fair processing and is Principle 1 of the Act. The simple solution is putting up signs at every entrance to the school grounds saying that filming is taking place and why. Design them yourself if you feel like it or you can buy them cheaply from many office suppliers. What you don’t do is not tell parents & pupils that you’re filming. Failure to comply with a principle can lead to a criminal offence. Principle 1 says processing should be Fair and Lawful.

Furthermore if someone asks a question using Freedom of Information about a process (CCTV) that should be part of a fair processing notice and 83 schools refuse to answer some-one somewhere should ask to see their refusal notices (sounds like FOI request to me) as there are no real grounds for refusing as the information should already supplied to Parents & Pupils. Doesn’t the commissioner have the power to issue an enforcement notice without a complaint if he feels there is an issue that needs addressing? Is 83 schools a big issue?

See the report and the spreadsheets that support this at http://tinyurl.com/78bydsw

But before we all harrumph at the standard of compliance with Information Law in welsh schools let’s ask our local school some simple questions.

  • Can I see your Publication Scheme?
  • Please give me a copy of your Privacy policy.
  • Do you use CCTV in the school?
  • Can I see a copy of your Notification?

You should get 4 answers by return all reassuring you that your local school knows what it’s doing. One missing or a long delay and you know something just ain’t right.

If you want to be more sneaky you can see if your local school has notified their processing to the ICO by searching the register of Data Controllers. You may be surprised. At a course in the North East a few years ago we had over 30 schools in the audience. I suggested that at coffee break we could get online and check a few schools to see if they were on the ICO’s register. We tried 6 before we found one who had done it. (An offence – Section 17 followed by Section 21).

Act Now has a briefing for schools on DP & FOI. Half a day at venues throughout the UK. We also have online courses in this area. See http://www.actnow.org.uk/courses/Schools

This entry was posted in CCTV, Data Protection, Freedom of Information, Transparency. Bookmark the permalink.

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