12 October 2008

Privacy and Children

I was not going to post on this subject. I figured it had been done by the Treespotter and by my reckoning his readership is much bigger than mine and includes a lot of the same people. However, it is probably important that as many people as possible read about this stupidity and then write about it. Perhaps, the more it is written about will increase the chances that it will be talked about in the right circles, and then something will be done about it.

The Department of National Education in their drive to greater transparency and accountability has decided in its infinite wisdom to post the names, student numbers, addresses, and other details of some several million students in easy to download excel files. These files have been available for a little while now.

I am not going to post the link even though I have it. I checked earlier today and it is still operational.

What this means. If you have school age children and they go to one of the schools on the list then in all likelihood their details and probably your address are online. This would seem to be a kidnapper's dream tool. As it limits their basic research to one site and provides them with all manner of information.

One of the problems is that these files have already been indexed by Google and most probably a whole lot of other search engines. The problem is that any request to remove these files from indexes and the cache memories or search engines will fall on deaf ears until such time as the Department of National Education removes them from their system. Simply, for Google and others to remove them would provide no solution as the next time indexing and caching was done the files would reappear.

What is interesting is that all those people that are in a position to do something about this are aware of it. There does not seem to be a lot of interest or urgency in getting these files and the information that they contain out of the public domain. This is where blogging and getting the word around might help in illuminating to those that can remove these files that this is a serious issue and people's privacy and the privacy of children is at stake. This is a public safety as well as a law and order issue.

The law in Indonesia would seem to provide some basic protections for privacy. However, the best protections might come from more recent Indonesian legislation that seeks to enact the intent of several human rights instruments such as those contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of the Child.

The need for access to information is critical. There is no dispute that the Department of Education needs this information to effectively and efficiently do its job. What is not so clear is why this information is needed in the public domain and what purpose it serves by being there.

More will follow as any updates become available (photo was found here).


treespotter said...

rob, i think you seriously overestimated my readership. I doubt that i still have anymore readers than you - i haven't done any smut recently and so it's unlikely that i still have more than 4 people reading. well, prolly 5, including you.

I think you guys can do a lot more than me - i need to get back to my regular smut posts soon.

PS: buyback post now up :D

Rob Baiton said...


I doubt it on the overestimation thing.

will drop by and read buyback.

therry said...

I haven't heard about this until I read this post. Why did the Dept Of National Education do this in the first place? Is it only another excuse of a project to get govt supported money or something?

It sounds kinda useless and stupid. Do the people at the dept also have the names and addresses of their children on that list?

Rob Baiton said...


My understanding is that it is part of a huge project. The idea is to collect student data so that the dept. can better do their job in providing quality education and probably so that they can direct resources to the most needy schools.

I am guessing that if the data was collected then their kids would be on the lists and therefore in the xls files available on the web.

Jakartass said...

It may be worth noting that of the files I've browsed, Our Kid doesn't feature - yet. This is presumably because none of his year 7 do. They'll all be new students.

And Rob, having data online about students is going to do bugger-all to improve the education system.

There is very little "quality education" thanks to the naff curricula and the dependence on multi-choice testing.

I've got a copy of last year's SMP English test if anyone's interested. It's only value is to count the mistakes - in English!

Rob Baiton said...


That was my point. There is no conceivable reason I can see that there is any benefit of having this information online.

On the collecting and collating of the data. Curriculum problems aside, the idea of being able to better do their job and to allocate funding where it is most needed is a positive development.

I was not suggesting that this data alone was going to be the magic pill that cured all ills we know are present in the education system.

I am against the data being online. I am not against the data being collected provided that the Department of National Education can explain the legitimate reasons for its collection.

Right now my Kid is still not ready to be poking his head out into this world and as such he is still some years off from school. But, once he does hit school age and his data is collected, I would be hoping that it would not be appearing online.

therry said...

Counting the numbers of how many kids need educating throughout the country, including the statistics etc. might be a better reason to use if the purpose is to improve the education system, but collecting each kid's individual data as well as address is just unnecessary and a waste of time... not to mention they will post the whole thing online!

Rob Baiton said...


Schools will collect all this data as a matter of course. When you enroll your kid you will have to provide a name, date of birth, address, next of kin, and the like.

It makes the administration easier for the school. It will also help the department do a better job.

My point is merely that there is no need for this information to be online and no one has cared to try and explain why it is there.

henzter said...

I've been trying to follow this closely too, if only to keep several of my friends abreast with the news because their children's names are on the list.

Anyway, I've read that the data are not supposed to be widely avaible and that it was designed to have "sistem keamanan sesuai tingkatannya" (http://khalidmustafa.info/?p=121)

Unfortunately, a blunder somewhere in the pipeline caused it to be made available to the public to such extent. This is where things go south.

It takes them four days (at least) from the day bloggers started to create some noise up until the time when "some data" were taken off the xls spreadsheets. And it seems that they did this reluctantly.


The two newsbytes above can be summed up as those "higher-ups" asking: "what's the big deal about privacy?"
1. saying that making student data available to the public is comparable to making civil servants & government official data public
2. saying that privacy is a relative thing
3. saying that there's no proof and all this are considered fearmongering (kekhawatiran [tak berdasar], tidak ada bukti).

and they have conveniently forgotten the fact that these are children we're talking about here. those we need to take extra measure to protect.

so what if businessmen put their numbers and address as their email signatures.
so what if government official personal datas are made publicly available.
we're not talking about businessmen or government officials. we're talking about children.

Compare to a similar case happening in the UK where details of junior student doctors were unwittingly leaked.

Rob Baiton said...


Yes. I believe that this was not what was intended. However, that does not make it any better or make it right, does it?

I am guessing that some degree of crystallization in Indonesian law as to what constitutes privacy and protected private / personal information might help in the long run.

I will check out all the links. Thanks for the links by the way.