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Monday 27 May 2019

Schools ban parents from taking photos

Taking photos of children at communions 'not GDPR issue'

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

School principals are warning parents they cannot take photos at communions or sports days “because of GDPR”.

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has said that it has received a large number of questions on the subject.

And it has now had to issue new guidance because of confusion among parents, teachers and children’s organisations over the matter.

“The DPC often receives queries from schools, parents and even photographers about taking photographs at school events,” it said.

“These events range from concerts and football matches, right up to sports days, holy communions and award ceremonies.”

But the authority outlined that any outright ban on parents taking photos was wrong.

“This type of activity falls under the so-called household exemption under the GDPR,” said the DPC’s newly published guidance.

“This provides that the GDPR does not apply when a person processes personal data – for example, a photograph of someone in the course of a purely personal or household activity.”

The privacy authority also said that GDPR did not strictly prohibit posting photos taken at school events on social media, either.

“Personal or household activities could include social networking,” the watchdog said.

"However, if a parent published a photo of their child online that also contained images of other children, and the parent of one of the children was uncomfortable with this and asked the parent to take the photo down, common sense and indeed common courtesy would suggest you should take the photo down."

In general, the DPC said that people have a right to take photos of others in public places.

"There is nothing under the GDPR prohibiting people from taking photos in a public place," it says. "Provided you're not harassing anyone, taking photographs of people in public is generally allowed."

But publishing a photo of someone may not be allowed, depending on the audience and nature of the publication.

"Whether you can publish a photograph to a broad-based audience is a different question," it said. "Taking a photo in public is generally fine, it's what you do with that photo that can potentially become a data protection issue."

The DPC said that outright school bans on photos may not be enforceable under data protection law.

"While it is at the discretion of schools to create their own policies on these matters for closed school events, it may be rather difficult to enforce an outright ban in the name of data protection on taking photos at, for example, the school's production of 'Grease' which members of the public can also attend," it said.

While the DPC advice gives some clarity to basic legal presumptions around taking photos at school and public events, it does not specify when there is a clear right to object to a photo being taken. In the case of a parent who objects to another parent taking a photo of her child in a sports match, the DPC is unable to say who has the law on their side.

Instead, it said parents and schools should use "common sense" to resolve disputes.

"A balanced, common-sense approach will go a long way towards ensuring that individuals' rights are respected, while also ensuring that data protection doesn't become an obstacle to capturing and celebrating significant school events," it said.

Irish Independent

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