Recording meetings is not the same as distributing or publishing recordings made.
The following section provides a summary of what the law and statutory guidance says about recording meetings and conferences. The Transparency project document pp 7 - 13 includes more detailed discussion about this.
Data Protection legislation statement regarding use of recordings - The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 do not prevent parents recording meetings and conversations because the legislation contains an exemption for
‘personal data’ that is processed by an individual (natural person) solely for the purposes of their personal, family or household affairs.
‘Personal data’ is defined as information relating to a living natural person who can be identified directly or indirectly from that information or other information, which includes opinions about that individual.
It is also likely that such discussions will include ‘special category data’ (previously known as sensitive personal data).
Special category data is defined by the GDPR & DPA 2018 as information which must be treated with greater care because information about these matters could be used in a discriminatory way and is likely to be of a very private nature. The following categories are defined as special category data:
- racial or ethnic origin,
- political opinions,
- religious or philosophical beliefs,
- trade union membership,
- genetic data,
- biometric data,
- sex life or sexual orientation.
Anyone posting recordings of a meeting on an online forum or on a social networking site will need to check if the GDPR & DPA 2018 applies. The Information Commissioner (ICO) is the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights. The ICO may investigate if it seems that someone has gone beyond the scope of the exemption, and the ICO may take enforcement action against them.
The Information Commissioners Office can be contacted for advice through their website www.ico.org.uk or by telephone on a local rate number 0303 123 1113.
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 – The Act does not prevent parents recording meetings and conferences. RIPA only applies to the actions of the State (the local authority), for examples it gives some protection to parents in relation to surveillance type activity.
Are there other laws that say parents are not allowed to record meetings and conferences?
- Confidentiality and privacy – It might be a breach of a family members’ privacy if a recording is distributed or published by another family member but probably only protected by law when it amounts to harassment. Where a recording is made simply for personal use or for use as evidence in private court proceedings, it is unlikely to amount to a breach of privacy.
- Human Rights – Documents or evidence produced for the purpose of Court proceedings are covered by court rules and there are restrictions about their distribution. Recordings of a meeting are not covered by the court rules (even if the parent intends to provide this recording to court).
Sometimes the rights of family members are in conflict with their individual rights to both respect for their private and family life and their right to freedom of expression.
Family members do not owe a duty to one another under the Human Rights Act 1998. However, agents of and those working for the state (includes the local authority) must carry out their work with the respect for the rights of privacy, family life and expression.
- Private life of practitioners – A recording of a meeting attended by a practitioner – for example a social worker in their professional role is unlikely to contain information about their private life.
- Privacy of families – If parents agree not to distribute their recordings to the public or a group of the public and only use the recording for their own records or in private court proceedings, it is unlikely that the local authority would be criticized for a breach of privacy in allowing this.
If a parent distributed a recording on the internet (through social media or other way) this might be harmful to the child, either because it would lead to them being identified as a child with social services involvement (for example) or the details of their private lives was made public. A local authority (or a parent) might be able to seek an injunction to stop this or to secure removal of the information if it was harmful to a child.
It is the distribution of the recording that is problematic and not the recording.
- Defamation (libel or slander) – this is unlikely to apply unless something that has been said was untrue that was likely to seriously damage the reputation of the person whom the statement was about. What is said in meetings and conferences is likely to amount to ‘honest opinion’ and as such is unlikely to be defamatory.
- Harassment – If someone recorded a meeting with the explicit or implied threat of ‘going public’ or putting the recording on the internet or otherwise circulating the material in a way designed to cause distress or fear - a court may potentially be asked to make an order (an injunction) to stop this. If a recording was used to harass a professional it is possible a court would be asked to make an injunction too, although this is less likely.
What does statutory guidance say about recording meetings?
- Working together to safeguard children – This does not say anything about making recordings of meetings and conferences by parents, nor suggests that this should or should not happen.
- The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) Handbook on Looked after Child Reviews – this document makes it clear that the IRO is responsible for ensuring an accurate record of initial or review meetings is made and distributed. It does not say anything about the making of recordings by parents nor suggests that this should or should not.