The UK government has been caught surveillancing the social media posts of thousands of people working in its own education system the Observer has revealed. From Lecturers to teacher assistants, thousands of those working in schools and colleges across the country have secretly gone onto a Department of Education database who are keeping extensive records of every post, comment, and meme they like and share.
This revelation highlights the burning issues of free speech and censorship, causing widespread disquiet among the educational community. The surveillance of educators’ online activity portrays a scenario where dissent or criticism of government policy is not only surveilled but also cataloged, potentially affecting the educators’ professional careers.
Educators across the UK have demonstrated a wave of shock and anger in response to the discovery. Many have submitted Subject Access Requests [SARs], a Right to Access provision within the General Data Protection Regulation, requiring the Department of Education to disclose the information it holds under their names. These educators found file lengths spanning up to 60 pages, documenting their tweets and comments opposing the government’s policies and criticizing the schools inspectorate, Ofsted.
Nikki Cleveland, a higher-level teaching assistant and primary school librarian, was astounded to find that even her tweets concerning issues such as inadequate funding for school libraries and criticisms of Ofsted had been flagged and stored by the Department. Her discovery has only raised her cynicism towards the government and the Department of Education, questioning their apathy towards the challenges schools face daily.
This disturbing surveillance operation extends to more than just educators. Jon Biddle, a primary school teacher and English lead, reported that “dozens of other teachers” he knew had also discovered their accounts were under scrutiny. The scope and depth of this surveillance has led to growing skepticism about the Department’s priorities and resource allocation.