Ushering in a New Age of Data Protection

On November 17, over 50 staff representatives from all Mercy institutions (including our affiliate school), came together to attend a presentation on Data Protection in the Sister Mary Ignatius Hospitality Room on the Alpha complex.

The presentation, which was delivered by Mr. Alexander Corrie, Attorney at Law, focused on the government’s fairly new Data Protection Act and its implications for schools throughout the island. This important Act seeks to “ensure the privacy and safety of the personal data of individuals and to regulate how this data can be used.” Although it was passed in 2020, the government has only begun to put most of its provisions in force as of November 30th , 2023. For this reason, it is imperative that the Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica ensures that all of its schools and ministries are adequately apprised of the Acts’ requirements and relevance to their operations.

Mr. Corrie’s excellent presentation provided staff with in-depth explanations of key concepts and jargon needed to understand and adhere to the provisions of the act. It also outlined schools’ roles and responsibilities as Data Controllers (i.e. entities which determine why and how personal data is to be processed). Data protection is not to be taken lightly and attendees were reminded of the importance of protecting the personal data of students and stakeholders at all reasonable costs. In order to do so, eight standards must be adhered to, such as processing data fairly and lawfully; obtaining data for specified and lawful purposes; and ensuring data is adequate, relevant, and only limited to what is necessary for the purposes at hand. These also include keeping data accurate and updated; not keeping data for longer than is necessary; respecting the rights of data subjects; taking appropriate action against unauthorised processing and accidental data loss; notifying authorities of security breaches; and not transferring data to countries with insufficient data protection measures.

Although the material covered was quite extensive and complex, Mr. Corrie did a wonderful job of articulating each point in a way which was not only easily digestible, but also interesting to his audience. The meeting was interspersed with questions and comments from persons in attendance and, by its conclusion, everyone had a much better understanding of the data protection Act and their roles regarding it. Since this presentation, the Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica’s Corporate Office has been coordinating the conducting of data audits among all Mercy schools; following which, data protection policies and privacy notices will be prepared through our attorney, along with the registration of schools with the Information Commissioner (which will allow schools to continue personal data processing).

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