23 February, 2016
It is a common occurrence to find numerous parents illegally parking outside the school gates, be that; parking on double yellows, parking on the yellow zig zag keep clear signs, or directly in front of school gates in order to save time when dropping their children off.
Illegal parking is dangerous to both pedestrians and other road users. In order to prohibit the "illegal and dangerous" behaviour of motorists parking on restricted areas outside schools' parents and teachers have been reported to photograph illegally parked cars and publish the photographs in their school bulletins or on websites in order to 'name and shame' such drivers from parking illegally.
The question is whether this public naming and shaming is legal, and more specifically whether photographing the vehicle registration number without prior consent constitutes as a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998?
A person's car and their car's number plate is considered as personal data, an individual taking a photo of another person's car illegally parked for their own use would be permitted (known as the domestic purpose exemption) . However, if the photo is later shared on the internet or via the school newsletter then this exemption can no longer be relied upon and sharing data in this way may constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. For schools this could be particularly serious as it would constitute sharing information that the school is not entitled to share and could leave the school open to the risk of receiving complaints from parents who have been identified in this way.
An alternative method the school could use to deter illegal parking would be for the school to keep statistical data of the number of parents doing this and reporting that in its newsletter, this would mean that the issue is highlighted but that parents are not identified. Although it is important to bear in mind that if there is one parent always parking illegally then this could lead to that parent being identified.