Army recruiter considers appeal to access pupil data

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) sought to appeal a rejected information request made with the intent of accessing sensitive pupil data – despite claiming the request was an ‘error’.

Last month, Schools Week reported that the ministry had attempted to access the highest level of pupils’ personal information from the national pupil database in a bid to “target its messaging” on careers in the army.

It said the request had been made in “error” by an individual outside its recruitment branch and that it had “halted” the request.

But Schools Week has now seen the MOD’s application form and correspondence, which show that an employee within the “information superiority branch”, based in Andover, submitted the request.

The applicant said the department planned to work on the careers project with Royal Holloway College and DotNet, a company that has worked with the Cabinet Office and that lists app development as one of its specialisms.

Schools Week understands the individual and the outside providers were considering creating a mobile app for army recruitment using pupils’ data.

The application form for the data states: “The information requested will enable us to understand the qualification level an eventual applicant may have but also enable us to better focus the information we send them so that it is more relevant to their thoughts on their future employment.

“This will be done by matching an individual to a career profile and then feeding into their media flows information about the career opportunities open to them in the army (regular or reserve).”

After the DfE rejected the application, the MOD applicant emailed the department about how “disappointed” they were and that the internet was “relevant to the ways in which they [young people] consume such information”.

A request was made for information about the appeals process. It is not known if a formal appeal was launched.

The MOD refused to comment about the reasons for application or to support its claim that the request was an error that it had “halted”.

Data protection expert Tim Turner said the intended use would have breached data protection laws. “Using the data of identifiable people to improve their targeting is unfair and unnecessary.

“They would need consent which they don’t have … and they would need to tell the young people that the data was being shared, which they haven’t done.”

He added: “I think it’s impossible for this to be done lawfully . . . I imagine it was a very easy decision for the DfE to say no. I could make a joke about this being a minefield but it’s not even that. It’s just impossible.”


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