Update on Army attempt to obtain sensitive student data for recruitment purposes

30/06/2015ForcesWatch comment

Following our recent piece on the news story that the Ministry of Defence requested access (which the Department for Education rejected) to the database of sensitive data of school students in England, to help the Army better target its recruitment practice, it has emerged that the Army - in collaboration with Royal Holloway College and the mobile phone app specialists DotNet - was specifically seeking to match individuals’ data with specific Army jobs, with a mobile phone app an apparent intended output. This and other revelations undermine the claims by the MoD quoted in the original news coverage of the story that they aren’t targeting individuals for recruitment, and that the request was an error that had been “halted”.


Following our recent piece on the news story that the Ministry of Defence requested access (which the Department for Education rejected) to the database of sensitive data of school students in England, to help the Army better target its recruitment practice, it has emerged that the Army – in collaboration with Royal Holloway College and the mobile phone app specialists DotNet – was specifically seeking to match individuals’ data with specific Army jobs, with a mobile phone app an apparent intended output.

This and other revelations undermine the claims by the MoD quoted in the original news coverage of the story that they aren’t targeting individuals for recruitment, and that the request was an error that had been “halted”.

Data protection expert Tim Turner says this use of the data would have breached data protection laws: “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.”

After having their request rejected, the Army employee behind the request, from their ‘information superiority branch’ based at the Army’s headquarters in Andover, emailed the DfE requesting information about the appeals process; it’s unclear whether a formal appeal has been submitted.

All this undermines the two claims by the MoD quoted in the original news coverage of the story: firstly, that they aren’t targeting individuals for recruitment, and secondly that the request was an error that had been “halted”. The MoD have refused to comment.

We know that the armed forces visit schools for recruitment purposes so they can avoid the influence of parents and other ‘gatekeepers.’ This would have allowed them to do that more effectively.