ICO says knowledge of data privacy should be part of national curriculum
ICO says knowledge of data privacy should be part of national curriculum

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has stressed the importance of data privacy and said that it should be part of the formal education process.

Launching a new research project to explore ways of getting information rights issues covered in primary and secondary education systems in the UK, the ICO said that it is vital that young people understand about their privacy rights and how to exercise them.

Jonathan Bamford, head of strategic liaison at the ICO, said: “Young people today are growing up in an age where an ever increasing amount of information is held about them. We are also now seeing a big move towards transparency with more official information being released than ever before.

“The Freedom of Information Act is an important tool in holding decision makers to account. By being aware of their rights to access information, young people will feel more empowered to ask important questions about the things that matter to them.

“While we appreciate that some information rights issues are already covered in specific subjects encompassing IT and law, we want to see a move towards schools embedding information rights issues as part of the mainstream education process, giving young people skills that will serve them well throughout their adult lives.”

The new project aims to ensure that young people are aware of the threats to their privacy and how to protect themselves, understanding the practical and legal safeguards that can help them. The project will also explore how young people can be encouraged to exploit the increasing availability of public information to their advantage.

Recent research undertaken as part of Speechly Bircham's youth data protection campaign found that of over 4,000 young people questioned, 88 per cent of secondary school and 39 per cent of primary school children have a profile on a social networking site.

Yet 60 per cent of respondents had not read social networking sites' privacy policies, 32 per cent didn't know what a privacy policy was and 23 per cent said they didn't know where to find it.

Greg Day, EMEA security CTO and director of strategy at Symantec told SC Magazine that the main problem for end-users is that it is easy to set up a profile on a social networking site and upload some content, but it is about what happens next.

He said: “How many employees care about handling data in the business? If you make them aware of how it impacts them in their own lives as most people do not accept things on face value as there is no meaning to it.”

Asked if he felt if an introduction of information and data privacy into the national curriculum would be a positive thing, Day said he thought it would be as people would not share personal details willingly but would surrender their date of birth to a website.

“I do think that there is some value in this advice but it has to be in a way to make people care,” he said.