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Windows Thread, Accessing Student Emails in Technical; Originally Posted by DPrince I couldn't break into someone's house to investigate a potential safeguarding issue. My question is: can ...
  1. #16

    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DPrince View Post
    I couldn't break into someone's house to investigate a potential safeguarding issue. My question is: can I break into someone's email account
    The difference is, you're not breaking in to anybody's email account, you're simply opening the mailbox stored on your email server that you own. If you have previously stated that you are providing an email service under the condition that should a reasonable cause for concern require you to access the student's mailbox (i.e. in your AUP) and they have signed that agreement, then I believe you're covered.

    Let us know what your lawyers say anyway - I'm not really sure why you asked the question here when clearly you never intended to take advice from members here anyway.

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    The way I see it, and this is definitely not school policy just my own view, is that the network belongs to the school, the school (meaning I) will get done for any copyright/inappropriate/offensive material........so privacy is something they get at home.

    Obviously Hotmail/Gmail etc are strictly out of bounds.

    Having said that, I'm gonna have to raise it now, because I don't think our AUP covers that.........I haven't read it for ages.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by LosOjos View Post
    The difference is, you're not breaking in to anybody's email account, you're simply opening the mailbox stored on your email server that you own. If you have previously stated that you are providing an email service under the condition that should a reasonable cause for concern require you to access the student's mailbox (i.e. in your AUP) and they have signed that agreement, then I believe you're covered.

    Let us know what your lawyers say anyway - I'm not really sure why you asked the question here when clearly you never intended to take advice from members here anyway.
    It's a discussion, I think he/she is taking it on board but wants clarity and references

  4. #19

    LosOjos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwhyte85 View Post
    It's a discussion, I think he/she is taking it on board but wants clarity and references
    Fair enough.

    Apologies DPrince - I'm in an arsey mood today.

  5. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by DPrince View Post
    Are you suggesting that the suspicion that someone might be in that situation means that you can just do what you want? You would need permission to search them, look in their bags, enter their house. The fact that the School owns the telephone system, network, or even mail server does not automatically give them the right to access the private information contained within those systems (as I understand it).
    I have to say again though that it isn't particularly clear-cut. I can't find anything that is conclusive on this.
    No we're not suggesting that we can do what we want, but if Safeguarding is an issue then we are expected to use whatever means available to investigate. This means that checking home drives and email accounts is never done without written authorisation from the personal responsible for Safeguarding/Child Protection in your school (usually, but not always, the HT)

    That person will be following their own training and guidelines and procedures set out for such an investigation.

    Young people in schools are minors (except for the oldest Year 13s) and the school has a duty to protect them. If your errant student is causing problems with either staff or other students at the school and it is suspected that a school email account is involved, the HT is within their rights to investigate. Details of the investigation are of course confidential; you are merely a means to an end, the way of getting to the information needed. The only time the HT would back off and get the police involved immediately is if it is suspected that illegal images may be involved.

    Where's Grumbledook when you need him? He'd be able to give you chapter and verse.

  6. #21

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    @DPrince:

    Could it be interpreted like the drink driving laws in this country whereupon if you are asked to give a specimen be it breath or blood and you don't give your consent you are prosecuted under the failure to give consent rule therefore meaning you are guilty of the said offence.

    If you have signed the schools AUP and the user is aware that their e-mails are monitored for inappropriate material then surely by this they are giving consent to the school by way of the HT to access their e-mail?

    You are just the tool (no offence intended) with which the HT uses to maintain the e-mail system.

    Could this not be your argument?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LosOjos View Post
    Let us know what your lawyers say anyway - I'm not really sure why you asked the question here when clearly you never intended to take advice from members here anyway.
    Hi - I wasn't asking for advice. I was asking if anyone had a definitive answer. What I'm getting is a lot of opinions, which are interesting in their own right, but not particularly useful when I'm potentially breaking the law.

    I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that this would have been something that would have arisen in the past, and that someone might have checked it out to ensure they were covered. I know from attending seminars and my previous job in industry that there is a heavy but misguided reliance on the AUP as being the "well, it's in there and you signed it, so tough" document.

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    Human Rights say that you cannot force someone to do something against their will ... yet millions of kids go to school each day grumbling about it.

    There are many conflicting laws, acts, regulations out there that will be argued over time and time again.

    The main one here is taking action to prevent harm to a child, which designated people within the school can do as they are In Loco Parentis under The Children's Act 1989. This may involve making reasonable and justifiable checks on the safety of children but keeping in mind other acts. The thing I would say is that if there is thought to be a real and present danger then the police or child protection should be involved.

    Consent of an understanding individual is always a handy thing to have (ie agreement via AUP) but this should always be backed up by a clear and acceptable process which holds people accountable. If such a search is going to happen it has to be authorised by a designated person, recorded in a specific log, monitored by a second person and then any information is only retained for the period of time needed to deal with the original request. To be honest, it is very much like CCTV and there is plenty of advice out there for this.

    I will dig out further information when at home later.

  9. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by DPrince View Post
    Hi - I wasn't asking for advice. I was asking if anyone had a definitive answer. What I'm getting is a lot of opinions, which are interesting in their own right, but not particularly useful when I'm potentially breaking the law.

    I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that this would have been something that would have arisen in the past, and that someone might have checked it out to ensure they were covered. I know from attending seminars and my previous job in industry that there is a heavy but misguided reliance on the AUP as being the "well, it's in there and you signed it, so tough" document.
    It has arisen a number of times, but people have fudge things or blustered their way through.

    You could always ask becta about this ... erm ... oops!

    To be honest, what you need is an Academy to ask this question of DoE. If a state schools asks they will be told to speak to their LA so any Academies willing to ask the question?

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    @DPrince... I've discussed this in-depth with members of our SLT when we had our safeguarding training Sept 09, the general opinion was shut up, do your job and let the big boys decide what happens. I'd imagine alot of us hit that same brick wall hence nobody having a definitive answer.

    What do your lawyers say?

  11. #26
    zag
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    I'm always accessing students email on disciplinary grounds.

    We have it clearly stated in the AUP document they sign that this will happen.

    There is really nothing more too it than that.

  12. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by zag View Post
    There is really nothing more too it than that.
    Unless you're breaking the law by abusing their human rights??

    The holding reply from the lawyers was that we SHOULDN'T do this, because we are not considering their Human Right to privacy. Apparently, they are of the opinion that our AUP doesn't override this, whatever it says. We can use RIPA to intercept email for certain tasks, but we can't access someone's account or pass any data on to third parties without the student's express and specific consent.

    The disclaimer that accompanies this is that it is just a holding reply - the person who normally deals with that sort of question is apparently unavailable. My suspicion is they're playing safe so we don't get caught with our pants down in the interim, but it does kinda match advice I'd received previously (albeit a few years ago at a legal seminar).

  13. #28

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    @DPrince
    ask the laywers about whether safety of the child under the Children's Act overrides Human Rights requirements as the Articles are all based around the rights to do things but not in detriment to existing laws. If the laws are wrong then they get challenged and changed. Ask the lawyers if human rights are infringed by searching a pupil or their property (eg bags)?

    The crux of this is consent, closely followed by justifiable actions.

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    It is always a subject which is going to be discussed alot - mostly becuase as you say the law can be very vague. I see it that as long as they have signed the AUP which gives us express permission to enter and search students mailboxes for misuse of the system or for Child Protection reasons i.e two students organising to beat another student up over email. The way i see it is we will only enter and search a students mailbox on the written instruction of a Member of SLT or the Pastrol Team who the Head Teacher has given express permission to give these orders.

    In a Similar way to the Police getting a search warrant and entering your house to search for possible illegal activities - they don't need your permission to enter as they have a warrant from a Judge. I'm sure this can't be breaking Human Rights laws in regards to privacy (what the police do that is).

    At the end of the day safeguarding children is of paramount importance so these things need to be done.

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    I'm interested in what they lawyers say as I've just been given a copy of our AUP to sign and it has something about accessing staff e-mails in a couple of vague [in my opinion] circumstances.

    "[if permission is given] by the users themselves using outlook"
    "on recipt of a request form signed by the Headteacher/chair of governors" ]

    The first one is fine. The second sounds like the same sort of thing as what's going on here.

    It also then says that "acess to other users' mailboxes risks breaching the data protection act and the users right to privacy; therefore a detailed log of how and when such access is granted is kept."

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