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Department's plan to collect data on every child a 'worrying overreach of the State'

The information could be until the child is 30.

Image: children via Shutterstock

Updated 1.35pm

DATA EXPERTS HAVE raised concerns over a new database of school children’s personal details, including PPS numbers.

Special advisor to Europol’s Cybercrime Centre, Brian Honan, has called it a “worrying overreach of the State”.

He told TheJournal.ie the it’s important the Department clarified what safeguards are in place for this data and on how it will be secured.

“What guarantees do we have that this information won’t be misused in future?,” he said.

We don’t have a crystal ball to see how things will change in thirty years time.

Honan, who is also founder of IRISS, also cited concerns around whether people will be able to access their information on the system.

We need to make sure we protect our privacy, and our right to it.

The information consists of the name, address, date of birth, nationality and mother’s maiden name of the student, plus non-compulsory fields such as ethnic or cultural background, religion, and need for learning supports. It also includes a space for “notes”.

All of this data could be retained until the child is 30.

Information sharing

The Department of Education has proposed that this information could be shared with the Department of Social Protection, the HSE and the NCSE.

This would eliminate the need for frequent data requests, the Department has argued.

The Primary Online Database (POD) has already been trialed in a number of schools around the country.

“The new system at primary level will allow the Department to identify children leaving
the education system early or not making the transfer from primary to post primary level,” a letter to parents read.

“It also will in time deliver benefits to schools and parents by reducing form filling and allowing records to be transferred between schools automatically as your child moves school.”

The Department also said the data will be stored securely:

The Department takes the protection of your child’s data very seriously. All data on POD is stored on the Revenue Commissioners servers, with the same security protections in place as for Revenue records. Within the Department, only a limited number of Statistics section staff will have access to the individual records.

Solicitor Simon McGarr has been tweeting his concerns about the scheme:

In the letter to parents, the Department said the data would be kept for this length of time ‘to allow longitudinal analysis in line with the national and international priorities for lifelong learning, and to allow for pupils to obtain their record in future’.

A spokesperson for the Department said this definition is in line with the Data Protection Commissioner’s guidelines, where personal data is defined as ‘relating to a living individual who is or can be identified from the data’, and sensitive data defined as relating to matters such as racial origin, membership of trade unions, and health issues.

Originally published 9.32am

Read: Irish Water to destroy your PPS numbers >

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Nicky Ryan

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