Call for 'privacy' studies

12th June 1998 at 01:00
PRIVACY education should be part of pupils' basic political education and ought to be incorporated into the national curriculum, says the author of a new report.

Perri 6, research director of the independent think tank, Demos, believes the Data Protection Commissioner should work with school curriculum bodies to develop ways to encourage understanding of privacy issues.

He says that the ability to deal with privacy issues - or "basic risk literacy" - is a life skill that young people need when they enter the workforce, become shoppers or start dealing with government agencies. "They need to know what risks they are taking when they give information about themselves ... they should know what the trade-off is."

He believes many young people are not aware of what happens to the information they provide when signing up for a credit card or supermarket loyalty scheme.

In The Future of Privacy, he writes that any teaching about privacy in British schools has limited impact because of the low status of "civics" lessons. He argues that it should be combined with history, geography, English literature and social sciences, and should work with pupils' experiences of shopping, government and the media, particularly the Internet.

However, Perri 6 points out that instruction-based learning is ill-suited to teaching pupils the skills of practical risk assessment, and that schools are not ideal settings "in which to demonstrate the variety of risks cultures".

The Future of Privacy (two vols), pound;19.95 each from Demos on 0171 353 4479

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