NSW students to be excluded from big events if they don’t give social media permission

May 18, 2019 by

By Pallavi Singhal –

Students in NSW public schools have been told they can’t participate in major school events without giving permission for their name and photo to appear on social media channels.

Parents say this violates their children’s privacy and puts them in danger online.

Permission forms for children to attend a number of events conducted by the NSW Department of Education now require parents to acknowledge that permission extends to “still photography, electronic media and social media, the use of the participant’s name, image and voice and biographical material in connection with [the event]”.

The forms are a departure from traditional Department of Education permission slips that included a separate option for parents to either give or withhold permission to publish their child’s name, photograph, voice or video.

Wollongong parents Carmel and Tony, who did not want their last names published, said the new forms are a violation of children’s right to privacy and go against the government’s own advice to students on what information they should share online.

“There’s a plethora of information that tells them not to publish their schools, not to have photographs of themselves in school uniforms because these are things that can be used for grooming children,” Carmel said.

“The department is . . . putting photos of kids onto public social media pages and public school websites.

“My nine-year-old daughter can’t participate unless we agree to have her image up on Facebook, despite the fact that kids aren’t even allowed on Facebook until they’re 13.”

A number of department forms require parents to “acknowledge” that permission to participate includes agreeing to publish information and photos. This includes consent for this year’s Wollongong Schools’ Choral Festival and South Coast Public Schools Dance Festival and last year’s South Coast Music Camp and Southern Stars showcase.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Education said that “it may be possible to limit photographs and filming of individual students” for smaller events, but it was harder to make exemptions for large events.

“Larger performing arts programs … which involve many thousands of students take place in public settings in front of live public audiences, and as a result there can be no guarantee that images or film will not appear in legacy media or social media channels,” the spokeswoman said.

“Students can still participate, and every accommodation is made by event organisers to exclude students without media consent permission from brochures or programs. Parents with concerns should discuss these with their school principal in the first instance.”

Carmel and Tony said they were initially refused an exemption after raising their concerns. Organisers told them in an email that they had “no other option than to enforce a blanket rule that all students have permissions to publish to be able to participate”.

However, Carmel and Tony said their daughter was eventually allowed to participate without signing the acknowledgement after they went to their principal.

Privacy expert and principal at Ground Up Consulting Nicole Stephensen said that asking for an acknowledgement rather than separately seeking permission to publish students’ details could put the education department “at risk of scrutiny from the state’s privacy body”.

Ms Stephensen said putting details on social media sites could also compromise students’ privacy.

“What public bodies can sometimes forget when they choose a social media outlet to be a platform for them is that any information posted somewhere like Facebook is no longer covered by the department’s privacy policy, it’s now subject to Facebook’s privacy policy,” Ms Stephensen said.

However Sydney University law school professor Barbara McDonald said the department’s forms did not appear to breach any laws.

“I would say they’re being cautious, if it’s being performed in front of people it would be very difficult to stop people in the audience from taking photos,” Professor McDonald said.

Source: NSW students to be excluded from big events if they don’t give social media permission

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