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THE government gave gambling firms illegal access to data on millions of schoolchildren in a woeful breach of data protection laws, a damning report revealed today.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has lambasted the Department of Education (DfE), blaming its poor due diligence for the breach of data protection.
Ministers were told to get a grip by the National Education Union (NEU).
The database contains information on up to 28 million youngsters aged 14 and over, including names, dates of birth, gender and educational achievements, with data kept for 66 years.
Gambling firms wanted the database to check the ages of people opening online gambling accounts, according the ICO.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said: “No-one needs persuading that a database of pupils’ learning records being used to help gambling companies is unacceptable.
“Our investigation found that the processes put in place by the DfE were woeful.”
He said the public expects information kept on them by the government to be treated with “utmost respect and security, even more so when it comes to the information of 28 million children.”
NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtenay said: “This is not the first time that the DfE have been found wanting over data protection.
“Given the hugely sensitive nature of the data that the government holds on our children and young people, ministers need to get a grip and make sure that there are rigorous checks on any organisations which are granted access to it in future.”
The DfE has since removed access to the database from 2,600 organisations and has strengthened its registration process, the ICO said.
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