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School photographs, data protection and common sense

06 January 2011. Published by Keith Mathieson, Partner

In the run up to Christmas the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued a press release confirming that the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) does not prevent family and friends from taking photographs at school concerts or plays.

While this might seem a statement of the blindingly obvious, the DPA has in the past been cited by schools and local authorities as a reason to stop parents from taking photographs at events such as school plays and sports days.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “A common sense approach is needed – clearly, photographs simply taken for a family album are exempt from data protection laws.  Armed with our guidance, parents should feel free to snap away this Christmas and stand ready to challenge any schools or councils that say ‘Bah, Humbug’ to a bit of festive fun.”

The DPA has no practical application in most cases where parents take photographs in schools.  The DPA will, however, apply when photographs are taken of children for official use by a school or college, such as issuing identification passes.

The full press release can be seen here.

ICO guidance on taking photographs in schools can be found here.

See further section 4.3.5 of the Privacy Law Handbook

(Originally blogged by Tamar Shafran)