Weather or not?

What is Personal Information? It means something different to everyone but, essentially, it’s information about individuals - and having started in January as the Community Engagement Lead at the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner (JOIC), it has made me appreciate how public awareness of 'how to keep personal information safe' is incredibly varied. Some know a great deal due to their workplace environment, some don’t. Others are not too concerned about how their personal information (also known as personal data) is shared, but our office is here to support anyone who needs guidance or support in navigating data protection, including dealing with concerns from individuals who fear that their personal information may have been used incorrectly.

One of our key strategic outcomes here at JOIC is to put children first. Education is key, not just in terms of the current curriculum, but also in terms of offering guidance from a very young age as to how to ensure their personal information is respected and protected. And by starting young, we can offer firm foundations to be built upon so that young people are empowered with the tools to help them navigate the increasingly technological world we live in.

It has been a joy to be invited into many Jersey schools – and in the short time I have been in my role as Community Engagement Lead here at JOIC, our Education and Outreach Team and I have been fortunate enough to deliver privacy education sessions to more than 500 students (and by the time this blog is published that will have increased further!). The opportunity to explain personal information and privacy of personal data to our younger islanders is hugely important, and as the digital world grows there is an argument that part of the curriculum may need to be reinvented to incorporate a digital lesson. I would like to think awareness about how personal data is used is part of that. In the meantime it is a pleasure to meet teachers and students who appreciate the importance of data protection and how valuable it is, to keep personal information safe.

What has been highlighted in my visits, is that students are aware of the social media platforms they can communicate on, but not necessarily the way the privacy settings have been set up. Many young islanders appear to be on platforms that are a little advanced for their age range and operate on default settings set by the social media platforms themselves, allowing, for example, contacts to be taken from their phone, their locations to be shown globally, costs to be incurred (as items are bought virtually) and phone numbers to be obtained without realising they have even been taken. By reminding students to check their privacy settings (and suggesting they get their parents or guardians to do the same!) we can slowly spread awareness and education and help embed the JOIC’s vision of ‘Privacy by Instinct’ at grassroots.

For the tiny islanders we have our exciting JOIC Privacy Superheroes! These characters were created to ensure we bring a bit of the superhero into our school sessions and assemblies. Some of our most engaging visits have been with 5 and 6 year olds where the children are introduced to these real life heroes who talk them through some of the superhero powers the children can obtain – such as being careful who they share personal information with (like their address and their names to strangers) and the children are invited to adorn little capes and eye masks and play interactive games to encourage them to understand what personal information is, and what it is not. We hope the colour, vibrancy and interactive style of the JOIC ‘Privacy Heroes’ will leave a little memory which will be reignited for the children throughout their primary school education and more so as they go through secondary school, when they will have the opportunity to revisit the topics in more detail.

This is just the start. I am also reaching out to those who are not children! To those involved in the highly important volunteering roles, associations, clubs and organisations that may need a little deeper understanding as to how to safely and lawfully process people’s personal data, and of course to remind everyone that organisations that process personal data must, by law, be registered with our office and adhere to data protection obligations, showing they understand the principles of data protection within the workplace.

Meanwhile, I work with a fabulous, growing team at JOIC, who are on the end of a phone or available to meet in person in our offices close to Sand Street car park and who can guide islanders though any questions they have or concerns regarding data protection and assist organisations in navigating their legal obligations.

It’s a joy raising awareness of the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner and why the office and data protection law, exists. We are all human and all need a little help from time to time - and putting our children across the islands ‘first’ means hopefully we can continue to spread awareness in words of kindness and in a fun and innovative way.

Would your school, club, charity or association benefit from a visit from me? If so, please get in touch. Email or follow my community updates on social media. Sophia Bird (@Sophia_JSY) / Twitter and (1) Sophia Bird | LinkedIn