Saturday, August 7, 2010

Labour MSP Karen Whitefield ask to resign from Holyrood Education Committee for illegally obtaining children’s data without seeking parent’s consent

Dear All

The Data Protection Act 1998 is an important piece of legalisation, everyone who has access to other people’s data in a work type situation is legally required to protect it.

Data must only be passed on to others who are authorised.

Labour MSP Karen Whitefield has been accused of breaching data protection rules by writing to personally to schoolchildren after obtaining their names from schools.

Did she have a legal right to this information in the course of her MSP duties?


Did she have a legal right to ask for the information?


Is it illegal for her to have been given these children's names without parental approval?


It is also illegal for head teachers to pass on databases to her; the rules are quite specific who is allowed access to data.

Whitefield sits on Holyrood's Education Committee as Convenor; there are calls for her to resign from that committee.

She obtained pupils' names which were supplied by the schools and head teachers gave her permission to send the letters, they can't give that permission.

Head teachers are ‘responsible adults’ in terms of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 but they cannot divulge names to unauthorised third parties, the rights of the parents cannot be superceded; their permission must be sought and obtained to comply with the DPA.

Whitefield in her defence of breaking the law says her letters were intended as a "gesture of congratulation" and were a long-standing practice.

The long standing practice of breaking the law has to stop.

North Lanarkshire Council is said to be investigating the matter and their investigation should focus on head teachers’ failure to obey the law, as for Whitefield, she should be reported to the Holyrood Standards Commissioner.

You would think that someone who sits in Holyrood making and voting on laws that Whitefield would have a grasp of the laws already in place!

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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