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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

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Data Protection Awareness Survey of Tertiary Sector Teachers and Lecturers in Ireland, TUI, Ireland.


Within the European Union all organisations and companies which process personal data must comply with the terms of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016 which was transposed into law in 2018. GDPR provides fundamental rights to individuals relating to the protection of personal data, the terms for processing personal data and privacy of personal data. The regulation also requires both data controllers and data processors to take an active approach to ensuring compliance and to promoting awareness of data protection. The regulation includes powers of enforcement, investigation, and sanction. The Data Protection Commission in Ireland is the independent national authority in the EU with responsibility to uphold individual rights relating to the protection of personal data.

This research paper provides insights into the level of GDPR awareness of a specific population sample of teachers and lecturers who work in the Irish tertiary education sector and are members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI). The research approach used was ‘practice-based’ (Eraut 2004) as a professional in the field and informed by ‘workers critical research’ as a worker in the sector (Kincheloe, McLaren 1994). The method included a questionnaire developed to measure levels of awareness about GDPR, it used closed choice questions and open comments boxes, and risk assessment indicators relating to remote working. The questionnaire was designed as an online survey for safe distribution during the Covd-19 restriction period. The survey items focused on GDPR key principles, rights of individuals, need to gain consent, data breach procedure and training. In addition, the survey explored experiences of GDPR issues while engaged in emergency remote working due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The online survey was distributed in February 2021 and was open for two weeks. The survey received N=502 responses, of which 39% were from Second Level Schools, 37% Higher Education , and 22% Further Education and Training. The results demonstrate a general good level of awareness about GDPR obligations, such as processing personal data, requirements for consent and confidentiality and procedures for dealing with matters that arise including data breaches. In addition, respondents indicated risk levels for GDPR concerns while remote working during Covid-19 restrictions The survey results suggest that respondents understood the importance of GDPR to protect individual rights and the necessity to have policies and procedures to achieve this obligation. Respondents indicated that training was required to keep up to date on GDPR matters and that training material should include fact sheets, short videos and online modules. It was suggested that engagement between employers and the union could assist in promoting awareness of GDPR in workplaces including emergency remote working.

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