Eduard Vallory and Maria Àngels Barbarà
The Catalan Data Protection Authority (APDCAT) has held a symposium on the effects of the new data protection regulation in schools.
During the event, the Authority stressed that it considers it a priority to provide children and schools with tools to enable them to respond adequately to the technological challenges ahead. The APDCAT is fully aware of its special responsibility with respect to safeguarding children’s right to data protection. This is a task it has been undertaking for some time, but which it is now explicitly mandated to do by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In order to provide support and assist the young to properly manage the technological difficulties they will encounter throughout their lives, the Authority deems it essential to work in conjunction with the education community and find the best way to include the protection of data and privacy in the classrooms. This was expressed by the APDCAT director Maria Àngels Barbarà in the symposium dedicated to examining the effects of the new data protection regulation in schools, which took place at the Palau Robert in Barcelona.
During her address, the director of the APDCAT emphasised that the school has a fundamental role to play in safeguarding the right to the protection of personal data, both when processing the children’s data and when incorporating data protection into the educational environment. The very young should learn to manage their privacy from the moment they begin their schooling. To this end and in collaboration with the Catalan Ministry of Education, the Authority will organise training sessions all over Catalonia addressed, in an initial stage, to head teachers.
Maria Àngels Barbarà concluded the inauguration of the event by pointing out that only with the involvement of the children, teachers, families and the Authority will we succeed in instilling awareness and critical thinking in the young with regard to the new technologies. Only with this engagement will we ensure and preserve their freedom of action, dignity, fundamental rights and free development of personality in the digital environment.
The Authority’s work in developing the Growing up and living together in a digital world project was highlighted during the symposium. This project consists in going into schools to talk to the young people about the basics of safe-surfing, and to provide the teachers with specific materials.
Along these lines, the APDCAT director insisted that it was necessary to include data and privacy protection in the classrooms and offer children rules that will help them live online safely and enjoyably. She also warned that we should make the young aware that not controlling their personal data could put many very important aspects of their life at serious risk. It was further underlined that the lack of experience and analytical capability of children and young people prevents them from understanding what it would mean and what impact it would have on their lives if each of their routines was converted into a piece of data that is disseminated, stored and used by third parties, who they neither know nor have control over.
In this context, the Catalan Data Protection Authority has been key in including the subject of data protection and digital education in the curricular programmes of Catalonia’s teacher-training faculties. The subject of data protection has also been incorporated into the bachelor’s degree, post-graduate and master’s courses of other universities.
The symposium was also the occasion for presentation of the Data Protection for Educational Centres Guidelines, prepared by the APDCAT to provide the necessary support to schools all over Catalonia. The Guidelines will help them effectively safeguard children’s rights and are completed with the new obligations laid down in the GDPR that are particularly applicable to schools.
The person responsible for children’s projects at the APDCAT, Glòria Freixa, explained that the GDPR will help us manage the data processed in schools better and more safely. With these Guidelines the Authority has set out to offer support to schools in their adaptation to the Regulation and to help resolve any doubts that may arise. Consequently, they will be continuously updated to respond to any new questions that will occur to school staff and managers.
It was also stressed that schools should assume accountability in safeguarding the protection of children’s data, and that the GDPR includes genetic and biometric data as special categories, restricting their use. The role of the Data Protection Officer was also explained during presentation of the Guidelines, along with information about signing contracts with companies that provide services to schools, the minimisation of data to be requested from children and the right to information and transparency, among other topics.
Following the inauguration by the APDCAT director, Eduard Vallory, president of the UNESCO Centre in Catalonia, addressed the symposium to explain children’s rights in their learning to take on the digital challenge.
Vallory emphasised that this is not a matter of changing or improving education a little, but rather one of transforming it to meet the exponential change that is happening. He went on to explain that this meant changing not simply learning objectives, but the actual way of learning. The digital environment is not an “after-school activity” but the nucleus of our life as individuals, professionals and citizens. We face a huge endeavour in responding to the digital challenges and empowering people, especially the young, to overcome them.
Finally, a round table took place to address the issue of the school as a driver of privacy. Participants included the head of the Catalan Ministry of Education Department of Learning and Knowledge Technologies, Jordi Vivancos, and the director of the Sadako School, Jordi Musons. The session was moderated by the APDCAT head of children’s projects, , Glòria Freixa.