We should not cave into PREVENT

A very disturbing email this morning – latest in a series of ever longer shrill missives on data protection that come in, and add to our workload. Not that I do not take them seriously, but it is not welcome news in between dealing with crap from UKBA (today, a note from a prospective visiting student funded from China for two years who, after ten or twelve letters back and forth between us, is finally refused entry because Home Office only issues visas for 12 months to visiting students, so now she can’t come at all! – Chinese Govt more flexible, will amend their funding to a year, and of course more work for us to try and fix this, basically by inviting her for two lots of 12 months. Cretinization!).

The point is, UKBA and terror programmes like the racist PREVENT must be exposed and resisted. It is distressing that we are even discussing this in relation to the PREVENT agenda, or rather, it is distressing that our esteemed retentional data manager is forced to discuss this and not just spit back an angry ‘no’. Still, the inference is that written data is all that matters here (the alternative – rumours that we are a part of the moral collapse/broken society/criminal decline and so on, are not subject to this ‘policy’ and cannot be passed on unless written down – though I guess now I’ve written it down it is obviously possible – HA!).

Enjoy. Weep. Despair.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: {snip}
Date: Fri, Sep 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM
Subject: [HoDAcademic] Third party disclosures of personal data

Dear All -

Further to reports in the press of a new initiative within the government’s “PREVENT” strategy concerning the covert surveillance of Muslim students - on what appears to be potentially rather scant evidence (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/aug/29/university-inform-vulnerable-muslim-students) it seems timely to ask you to remind staff of the procedures for disclosures of personal data to third parties: http://www.gold.ac.uk/data-protection/data-third-parties/

The individuals within the College who are authorised to make disclosures of personal data to the police (or in fact anyone who wishes the disclosure to be made without data subject consent) are the Director of Student Services, the Data Protection Officer and the Registrar and Secretary. (The Director of HR is added to this list – in practice only for staff data - although of course there is currently a vacancy.) Disclosures to the vpolice are in the vast majority of cases not compulsory but at the discretion of the College, and the College must accept legal liability for any challenge to its decision from the data subject (should he or she discover later that the disclosure has been made). Recently police tactics of investigation have tended to become more intrusive and one hears of more instances of refusals by universities to cooperate than a few years ago. This is not confined to the anti-terrorism agenda but is more general. Approaches adopted by the policy are inconsistent and do not always go through the institution’s obvious channels for personal data disclosure.

The procedures for disclosure of personal data in the Goldsmiths Data Protection Policy strictly only apply where there is written (or otherwise recorded) information involved at some point in the process (as there often is). However it would be helpful if I could be kept informed of any approaches made by the police to obtain information from you or your staff under their current initiative, as this contributes to a general overview of the risk environment in terms of potential invasion of privacy. Over the next two weeks I shall however be away, {snip}

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Comments

  • Rodrigo  On 28/09/2011 at 11:38 pm

    As an example how Prevent 1.0 occured outside of a university context, an east london council managing Prevent funds (£2m) delgated to its operation to Council’s community safety team to manage. Things the unskilled in community relations crime managers discussed were reporting on getting market traders to monitor Bangladeshis or Asian Muslim traders absentees.

    They were all clueless. M15 had suggested 10 credible threats across UK over five years since 2004 yet here is a council clutching at staws for potential terrorists wasting tax payers money. Goes beyond university thus shambles of a Home Office strategy

    Prevent 2.0 doesn’t look any better.

    Like this

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