Sexual orientation of millions of students saved in UK government database

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A Freedom of Information request by BuzzFeed revealed that the British government is storing data about the sexual orientation and religious beliefs of more than  three million students in a large database. This is happening without the knowledge of the students in almost all cases.

The records of the sensitive information go back to 2012/2013, which means the data is kept after they are no longer students. They’re stored by the Department for Education (DfE) in named data, rather than anonymous statistics.

The data held is part of the National Pupil Database, but is specifically collected and passed on to the government by the High Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Information from the DfE states that holding the sensitive and personal information, or “special category data,” has a lawful basis under GDPR Article 9(2)(j): “Processing is necessary for archiving in the public interest, scientific, or historical research or statistical purposes.”

A DfE spokesperson told Buzzfeed: “We take data protection extremely seriously and we keep all personal information safe – in line with legal requirements. The information collected by HESA and shared with the department is done so we can meet our public sector obligations to carry out equalities impact assessment.”

However HESA, which shares the information with the DfE in the first place, does share the data with other organisations. These include funding bodies in Scotland and Wales and the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS, in turn, can then share data with other organisations, including private companies.

The government stance is that organisations are only obliged to make clear where they will share the information, not where it will be shared by the next organisation once it is passed on, and it is often unclear to students that their information will reach the DfE database.

Jim Killock, executive director of digital campaigning organisation Open Rights Group, told Buzzfeed it was “simply unclear and unfair to be collecting and sharing information like this. People should opt in when data is shared. It shouldn’t be passed from one organisation to another in this way, unless that is made clear and agreed upfront.”

Buzzfeed found that some universities were not making it clear in their privacy policies how students’ information would be used.

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Alan Turing will be the face of the Bank of England’s new £50 note

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The Bank of England has announced that Alan Turing’s will appear on British £50 notes starting 2021.

“Alan Turing was an outstanding mathematician whose work has had an enormous impact on how we live today,” Bank of England governor Mark Carney said. “As the father of computer science and artificial intelligence, as well as a war hero, Alan Turing’s contributions were far ranging and path breaking. Turing is a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

Turing was a computer scientist whose innovative thinking was integral to breaking Nazi codes during World War II. Despite his heroic deeds, he was deemed a criminal less than a decade after the end of the war when he was found guilty of having sex with a man. He was sentenced to chemical castration in 1952 and eventually driven to suicide.

“It’s important that we remember and recognise the impact of LGBT figures throughout history, so it’s great that Alan Turing will be the face on the new £50 bank note,” Kim Sanders, director of communications at LGBTQ+ rights organisation Stonewall in the U.K, said in a statement. “It’s vital that we celebrate LGBT history, which is often less visible, and make sure that we represent the diversity of those who paved the way before us.”

Years after his death, Turing’s early contributions to technology have become more fully embraced, materialising in a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch, an official royal pardon in 2013, and other accolades.

The Bank of England received 227,299 nominations after it put a call out for suggestions for a scientist that should be featured on the £50 note. Finalists included Ada Lovelace and Stephen Hawking. The photo of Turing will be a 1951 portrait, his signature from the visitor’s book at the famed Bletchley Park, where code breaking efforts were concentrated during the war, and a quote of his from a 1949 interview with the Times of London: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

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Is the acceptance of gay sex declining in Britain?

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The number of people believing there is nothing wrong with gay sex has fallen for the first time since the Aids crisis. The British Social Attitudes survey puts it at dipping from 68% in 2017 to 66% in 2018, leaving a third of the population in some way opposed. NatCen, who conducted the survey, said that, while further polling was advisable, “liberalisation of attitudes does seem to be slowing down”.

The findings coincide with the first decrease in more than a decade of people comfortable with pre-marital sex. On the plus side, last week also saw the Commons victory for gay legislation in Northern Ireland. Still, what a hammering same-sex couples have had recently – everything from attacks on buses to Ann Widdecombe (the Aunt Lydia of Brexit, anyone?) pondering how science could “produce an answer” to gayness. In this context, is the NatCen survey indicative of new attitudes, or yet more evidence that people are feeling bolder about expressing previously veiled prejudices?

Part of the problem seems to lie with gay sex in particular, rather than gay people generally, the bizarre phenomenon of almost “enforced asexuality”, where gay people (or anyone non-straight) can be accepted, even celebrated, but only so long as the “sex stuff” is played down to the point of being undetectable.

This often seemed to be the “problem” with the late George Michael – that he was an actively sexual gay man, and didn’t care who knew it. To a certain hetero mindset, it seems there are two distinct groups – cultural gays (acceptable), and sexual gays (unacceptable!). Some people pride themselves on “tolerating” what they perceive as cultural gays, but then recoil from evidence of their sexuality.

Perhaps that’s when they start pompously opining to people with clipboards about non-acceptance – as though somehow their homophobia had been forced upon them by gay people who just had to go and spoil everything by having sex.

Read on…

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Harry x Louis on Euphoria

milkboys Film & TV, Films & TV 1 Comment

HBO’s teen drama Euphoria made a slpash by featuring a steamy (animated) sex scene between former One Direction members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.

Harry said before that he “messes around with both men and women.” Louis Tomlinson on the other hand has lashed out at gay rumours for years, criticising fans for the creation of the portmanteau “Larry Stylinson”.