Data gathering methods called into question for POD (Primary Online Database)

The Department of Education is currently gathering data for its live Primary Online Database, POD. However, there are concerns that the methods employed to gather information may be in breach of data protection legislation.

Please listen to the excellent clip from RTE’s Morning Ireland on Thursday, 15th January 2015 discussing the issue with Dublin solicitor specialises in data protection, Simon McGarr.

Most of the data for POD is being submitted automatically by Primary schools, without parents’ permission.

Further information such as ethnicity, cultural background and religion are currently being gathered by schools. There is also the issue of what the information gathered will be used for;

In the longer term it is proposed that POD will also share data with the Department of Social Protection, the HSE and the NCSE, and other bodies, eliminating the need for many of the current data requests to schools from these bodies, for example in relation to vaccination programmes, child benefit claims, application for special educational needs.

So as a parent, are you reassured by the above statement from the Department of Education website?

As I type this, it is proposed that the information carried by the database will be held until the child turns thirty, although, as mentioned in the audio, Minister for Education and skills, Jan O’Sullivan has said she will look again, at this figure.

I have written to my daughter’s school including all Simon’s points. I’ve also sent a copy of the letter to the Department of Education, on Simon’s advice (over twitter, he’s really very good) and hope to pass on any replies I receive to the data protection commissioner.

Further reflections on the gathering of information for the Primary Online Database (POD) can be found on David O’Callaghan’s blog post entitled, ‘Thoughts on the Primary Online Database‘.

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