Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Privacy Impact Assessments...

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme. In his interview at 7.30am he talked about needing a debate on the level of surveillance in today's society and talked about needing a public debate on the subject about where the line should be drawn with regards to surveillance.

He then went on to talk about the need for companies to do privacy impact assessments before installing databases, to asses identity risks, showing how organisations minimise the impact on privacy, assessing the chances that things could go wrong and to minimise excessive surveillance.

In light on the guidelines for biometrics in schools which the Information Commissioners Office has advised on, due to be issued after May 3rd, his comments are encouraging regarding his feelings that both government departments and private companies should carry out a privacy impact assessment before installing new databases.

The Irish Data Commissioner has advised schools to carry out a privacy impact assessment before installing and using biometric technology with children... "This is an important procedure to adopt as a contravention may result in action being taking against a school or college by the Commissioner, or may expose a school or college to a claim for damages from a student." Point 8 on the guidance.

If Richard Thomas is keen for privacy impact assessments to be undertaken in the adult community then one would presume that this courtesy will absolutely be extended to our children's biometric databases quickly emerging in schools, especially as the Irish Commissioner has set a precedent in this area listing at least 36 points to consider on this.

(You can 'listen again' to the BBC interview which lasts about 5 minutes or find it in the archive for this week)

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