Often, data regulations are considered rules intended to restrict information from getting out. But, as the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office recently demonstrated, such regulations can also be used to bring information into the open.
The ICO recently announced that under the Data Protection Act, students in the U.K. are afforded the right to receive detailed information and feedback about their academic exam results.
The move is notable because teachers and professors in the country often withhold information from students after a test is completed. Reasons for such practices may vary, but, as the ICO pointed out, they restrict students from being able to see what they did wrong and correct themselves accordingly.
Under the act, educational institutions are required to respond within five months of the student's request or 40 days of publishing exam results – whichever comes first. Teachers aren't obligated to let students retake tests, but having the information on hand should provide them with information they need to improve.
"We’ve all experienced the excitement and occasional disappointment that the exam season can bring," said data protection commissioner David Smith.
"Having access to information – such as a breakdown of their overall mark and examiners’ comments – may not lead to their grades being altered but it could help them make decisions that impact on their future, such as deciding to re-sit an exam or pursue a particular subject at college or university," he added.
While this greater transparency may be a benefit to students, educational institutions will need to be mindful of the data privacy implications that may follow. This year has already seen data breaches at several universities, including the University of York in the U.K. For schools to maintain compliance with the Data Protection Act, they must ensure they are sharing the information in a safe and responsible manner that doesn't put sensitive student data in danger of being exposed.