Blog: Sharing personal data in an emergency – a guide for universities and colleges | ICO
22 September 2022 – A note from Information Commissioner, John Edwards:
“The new academic year in HE and FE is approaching, which is a good opportunity to remind everyone in universities and colleges that they should not hesitate to share students’ personal data to prevent serious harm to the physical or mental well being of a student in an emergency situation, or protect a life. Data protection law allows this, and you won’t get into trouble if you share information with someone who is in a position to help a student at risk.
“We’re re-publishing our 2021 blog which explains and gives advice on what to do.”
A blog by Viv Adams, Principal Policy Adviser in the ICO Parliament and Government Affairs team
14 September 2021
Starting university or further education can be an exciting time, but for some it can also be a difficult and anxious transition.
We know that universities and colleges work hard to provide support to students who are struggling. That means that universities and colleges often have to handle sensitive personal information about them. And we are aware that, sometimes, universities and colleges are hesitant to share students’ personal data in an urgent or emergency situation, citing data protection as the problem. That should not be the case.
Put simply, university and college staff should do whatever is necessary and proportionate to protect someone’s life. Data protection law allows organisations to share personal data in an urgent or emergency situation, including to help them prevent loss of life or serious physical, emotional or mental harm.
The ICO’s approach has always been to be a pragmatic and proportionate regulator. That means the ICO does not seek to penalise organisations for acting in good faith and in the public interest in an urgent or emergency situation.
To help universities and colleges feel confident they can share people’s information lawfully, we have set out some practical steps:
We recognise that this does not resolve all the issues around students’ personal data where there is a mental health concern, but we hope it will go some way towards it by busting data sharing myths.
We will continue to work with universities, educational bodies and parents to reassure them that data protection law enables data sharing to save lives and protect young people.
Viv Adams is a Principal Policy Adviser in the ICO Parliament and Government Affairs team and worked closely on the new data sharing code of practice.
This content was originally published here.