What are children doing online, or why is data protection important in school education?

Personal data protection at school, the principles of implementation and the schedule of the 12th edition of the nationwide educational programme "Your data – Your concern" as well as the presentation of interesting educational initiatives – these are the most important issues discussed during the online training for coordinators of the 12th edition of the programme.

The training was organised on 27 and 28 October 2021. It is one of the main events organised as part of the "Your data – Your concern" programme.

As Urszula Góral, Director of the International Cooperation and Education Department at the Personal Data Protection Office, explained, thanks to the widespread access to new technologies the need to educate children and youth in the areas of personal data protection and privacy has significantly increased.

– This aspect of education is also emphasised by regulations, since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) clearly indicates that activities addressed to children should be conducted throughout the European Union in a manner that is understandable to them. Preparing children to function in the world of evolving technologies is also a task for teachers – said Urszula Góral.

The "Your data – Your concern" programme provides support for teachers in gaining knowledge about personal data protection and privacy, and the past training was an opportunity to introduce practical issues in this area.

Knowledge and building attitudes a current challenge

– We often observe that securing certain information becomes an end in itself. Meanwhile, personal data protection is about protecting human rights – explained Piotr Drobek, counsellor at the DPA. The speaker pointed out that personal data protection is a certain tool that is supposed to help us function in the modern world. However, knowledge alone is not enough. It is much more important to build appropriate attitudes.

Marta Mikołajczyk, the programme’s coordinator, discussed the schedule of activities planned for the 12th edition of the programme, as well as the details of this year's cooperation. She stressed the importance of building awareness and understanding certain phenomena related to personal data protection among students. The practical aspect of education is very important. This knowledge will allow young people to make informed decisions about what information they want to disclose, to whom and under what conditions. It will allow to avoid many dangers and consequences of careless sharing of information about oneself.

New technologies when we know how they work, we can avoid problems

The first day of the training was devoted to explaining the key issues related to the safe processing of personal data, especially in relation to the use of new technologies by students and the need to protect digital identity.

Daniel Dziewit, the author of the publication “Homo enter, czyli jak nie zostać złowionym“ (“Homo Enter, or How Not to Be Caught“) spoke about data protection as an indispensable element of preventing digital addiction of children. In his view, "children do not pay attention to the digital traces they leave online". That is why education and shaping safe attitudes in the digital environment is so important. In his opinion, appropriate behavior patterns presented by adults are important, as children often imitate them.

Balbina Hermanowicz from the High Tech Department of the Personal Data Protection Office encouraged to talk to students about threats resulting from unskillful use of new technologies. Knowing what risks are posed by e.g. social engineering attacks or ransomware, or knowing what features currently prove that we can build a strong password and thus protect ourselves from losing personal data can contribute to shaping proper Internet user hygiene.

Personal data protection at school knowledge not only for the controller

In addition, the participants of the meeting learned many other issues that are necessary for a better understanding of the idea of personal data protection and the rules of its processing at school. They can also provide inspiration for topics that teachers would like to discuss in more detail with students, for example, during planned educational initiatives.

Iwona Piórkowska-Kapica from the International Cooperation and Education Department at the Personal Data Protection Office presented initiatives of other supervisory authorities, including the Irish and French ones, undertaken for the benefit of the education sector, which contributed to raising the teachers and student’s awareness of data protection and the right to privacy.

The role, duties and responsibilities of the controller in the processing of personal data in schools was presented by Aleksandra Głuch from the Case Law and Legislation Department. Among the issues addressed by the speaker were the following: the relationship between the principal and the teacher in the context of deciding on the teaching aids used in the classroom, especially during the so-called e-learning, and the processing of personal data of students and their parents by teachers. There was also information on the processing of persons’ images or consent as a prerequisite for the legalisation of data processing.

Monika Kurzajewska from the Case Law and Legislation Department spoke about the benefits of cooperation with the data protection officer (DPO). When discussing the role and tasks of the DPO, she drew attention to the real support that the DPO can provide not only to the principal, but also to the teachers through, for example, consultation and training. The DPO is also a valuable partner in the implementation of educational initiatives under the "Your data – Your concern" programme.

Additionally, teachers gained knowledge on data protection breaches reported by schools. Piotr Popielewicz from the Inspection and Breaches Department explained what such violations are and showed examples of violations that teachers may have to deal with in their work. He pointed out, among other things, that an employee's ability to identify a breach may contribute to a quicker response from the administrator, who has specific obligations towards data subjects in connection with a breach of data protection.

Many useful tips on how to take care of personal data protection at school are also provided by the experiences of inspections conducted by the Personal Data Protection Office. With reference to the education sector, Piotr Piwowarczyk from the Inspection and Breaches Department presented the examples of two proceedings: the use of biometric data by the school during the verification of payments for meals in the school canteen (the case ended with an administrative fine) and video surveillance. The speaker not only explained the irregularities, but also gave tips on what to pay attention to when introducing various tools to support the functioning of the school in compliance with GDPR.

Good practices

On the second day of the training workshops were held during which examples of six educational initiatives implemented by educational institutions during last year's edition of the programme were presented. These were the projects awarded in the competition for schools within the programme, implemented by:

  • Primary School No. 360 in Warsaw,
  • Primary School No. 17 in Rzeszów,
  • Primary School No. 4 in Lublin,
  • Primary School No. 9 in Kutno,
  • Primary School in Kroczyce and
  • Special Schooling and Educational Center in Zamość.

However, the "Your data – Your concern" programme is not only about educational initiatives undertaken by schools. The programme also involves teacher training centers. Representatives of the Radom Teacher Training Center and the Computer Assisted Education and Information Technology Centre presented their experiences.

Detailed information concerning the 12th edition of the programme can be found here.