Does the data protection law stop me taking photographs of my children at school?
Data protection law doesn’t apply to the use of personal data for ‘purely personal or household activity’. This means that the law doesn’t prevent you from taking photos or videos for personal use (see below for further guidance on personal use). However, schools may have their own policies, separate from data protection law, on whether or not they allow parents or guardians to take photos or videos at school events.
Personal use and social media
If you post photos or videos taken at a school event to your private social media account, only viewable by friends or family, this is likely to fall within the definition of personal use. This means data protection law does not apply.
However, if you post photos or videos to a public account, viewable by an indefinite number of people, this is likely to go beyond personal use. In this instance, you will need to be aware of your obligations under data protection law.
You are not necessarily prevented from posting images on a public account. However, you will need to consider whether individuals in the photos or videos would reasonably expect the images to be used in this way. Data protection law states that you must take extra care when using children’s personal data, to ensure their interests are protected.
If images of you or your child have been posted online, you can request that they are removed. We recommend that you first contact the account owner to ask them to remove the images.
In most cases, the account owner should agree to a request to take down images of another individual uploaded to their personal account.
We recommend allowing one month for a response. If they refuse or don't reply you can submit a complaint to the ICO. At that point we may contact the account owner to ask them to resolve the concern. However, beyond this, it is unlikely that the ICO can take additional action.
For more information, please see our guidance on social media.
Photographs taken by the school
Data protection law is likely to apply if photos or videos are taken for official school use, such as for inclusion in a prospectus or other promotional material.
Pupils or a parent or guardian, depending on the pupil’s age, must be informed how the photos or videos will be used.
Data protection law doesn’t specify an age at which a child is considered capable to exercise their own rights, although 12 years old is typically given as a guideline. However, this should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The school will also need to have a valid reason to publish photos or videos. These are referred to in data protection law as ‘lawful bases’.
Consent offers one possible lawful basis that allows an organisation to use your personal data. However, it will not be appropriate to rely on consent in all circumstances and another lawful basis could instead be relevant. The school should explain which lawful basis they are relying on at the outset, so that pupils and their parent or guardian know what to expect.
Regardless of the lawful basis relied upon, we recommend that the school allows pupils the opportunity to opt-out from their image being used.
For more information, please see our guidance for schools.
A parent takes a photograph of their child and some friends taking part in the school Sports Day to be put in the family photo album. These images are for personal use and the Data Protection Act does not apply.
Grandparents are invited to the school nativity play and wish to video it. These images are for personal use and the Data Protection Act does not apply.
Photographs of pupils or students are taken for building passes. These images are likely to be stored electronically with other personal data and the terms of the Act will apply.
A small group of pupils are photographed during a science lesson and the photo is to be used in the school prospectus. This will be personal data but will not breach the Act as long as the children and/or their guardians are aware this is happening and the context in which the photo will be used.
A photograph is taken by a local newspaper of a school awards ceremony. As long as the school has agreed to this, and the children or their guardians are aware that photographs of those attending the ceremony may appear in the newspaper, this will not breach the Act.