Voices come together to highlight the need to strengthen childrenā€™s data rights in response to Government consultation ā€˜Data: a new directionā€™

By Sarah Gorin, Ros Edwards and Val Gillies

As part of our research project, we are constantly trying to keep up with developments about the use of childrenā€™s data by Government. In Autumn 2021 the U.K Government released a consultation ā€˜Data: a new directionā€™ that we responded to, based on our learning from parents who have participated in our research.

Our submission highlighted the already fragile nature of public trust in joining up administrative data about families, particularly amongst marginalised groups and the need to press pause on data sharing and artificial intelligence (AI) systems in the U.K. with a need for greater regulation and safeguarding of familiesā€™ data from use by private companies.

Fortunately we are not alone in raising concerns about the proposalsā€¦ā€¦.

Organisations such as the 5Rights Foundation and DefendDigitalMe have also made submissions to the consultation that highlight the lack of attention to the impact of these proposals on children and their families.

In this blog, we summarise some of the key recommendations to the consultation by LSEā€™s Professor Sonia Livingstone and 5Rights Foundation researcher Dr Kruakae Pothong who have drawn on their extensive research experience to inform their childrenā€™s rights based response (for more detail see their LSE blog).

Professor Livingstone and Dr. Pothongā€™s submission highlights the need for greater not lesser support for childrenā€™s rights as data subjects and questions whether proposed changes to the UK General Data Protection Regulation are indeed in line with international human rights and child rights developments.

Key concerns raised in the submission include:

  • The need to maintain a clear boundary between the use of personal data for scientific research and the re-use of this scientific research for commercial purposes, with meaningful consent obtained for any further processing to occur.
  • The importance of scientific and public interest research that identifies children to demonstrate fully how the acquisition and processing of data would affect children and how they can exercise their data rights.
  • The importance of not proceeding with the Governmentā€™s proposed ā€œlimited, exhaustive list of legitimate interestsā€ as a basis for processing data. Currently, legitimate interests can be a lawful basis for processing data only when processing is ā€˜necessaryā€™ and when there is a balance between the interests of the data subjects and othersā€™ interests.
  • The need to maintain rather than remove (as proposed in the Consultation) the requirement for organisations to undertake data protection impact assessments. They argue that instead the additional safeguards of the data protection impact assessment and a child rights impact assessment should be mandated for use before and after the processing of childrenā€™s personal data.
  • The importance of retaining the requirement to have Data Protection Officers in all circumstances, especially educational contexts.
  • Maintaining free subject access requests as charging families would adversely affect childrenā€™s rights and make it harder for children and families to correct inaccurate information held about them, potentially negatively affecting them in the short and long term.

The Government consultation closed in November 2021 and we await the outcome.