About us

Defend Digital Me is based in England, coordinated by Director, Jen Persson. She can be best contacted by Direct Message on Twitter via @TheABB. Our voluntary Advisory Council helps challenge and support our strategy. The running of Defend Digital Me is overseen by fellow Directors.

About Defend Digital Me

Jen Persson @TheABB

Jen is the everyday face of Defend Digital Me as Director and founder and manages all administration, staffing, policy, and campaign work. Her previous professional life included ten years in database and business process change implementations, including international projects.

Philippa King @Pippa_King

Pippa is the Director of Biometrics-in-Schools and has campaigned for over ten years in the sector. She was instrumental in the introduction in the relevant sections of the Protection of Freedoms Act, passed in May 2012, which requires schools to gain written consent from children and guardians before processing biometric data in schools. She is active at Defend Digital Me in global horizon scanning and developing technologies in education. More at: https://pippaking.blogspot.com/

Dr. Richard Gomer @richardgomer

Richard is a Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, a district councillor on Eastleigh Borough Council, a company director, and school governor. He has spent a number of years researching Human-Computer Interaction, and has a particular research interest in the design and evaluation systems and interfaces that support people in making meaningful decisions about their personal data. Richard has worked on research, design and implementation projects with a wide range of organisations spanning global technology companies and start-ups. Richard is interested in how public authorities can make effective and responsible use of data and technology, as well as establishing better models of technology governance to ensure that (for instance) the use of our personal data, or the deployment of technology in the public realm, is subject to adequate scrutiny and safeguards. More info at: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/richardgomer

Defend Digital Me is registered as Defend Digital Me group, a non-profit company limited by guarantee with charitable objects, listed at Companies House and on the ICO register of data controllers. The campaign has been funded by grants from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust Ltd. and LUSH Charity Pot. The 2020 State of Data event was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. We receive separate funding for strategic litigation from the Digital Freedom Fund. We have the support of legal staff on both paid and pro-bono basis and are grateful for public donations to crowdfund support of our legal campaign work.

Who we work with

We are non-partisan, independent of any political ideology, economic influence, or religion, and actively seek to work with organisations and allies across a wide spectrum of positions in increasingly polarised debates.

The parliamentary system and process of public policy making needs knowledge of historical context and forward-looking horizon scanning. Making change demands understanding of the bigger data environment beyond education, with a grasp of its place in the political, social and cultural landscapes and direction of travel of others' work across the field.

School staff are both decision makers and the first line of defense in ensuring safe pupil data practice. From procurement to teaching children about digital literacy, school staff play vital roles in the chain of managing pupil privacy inside the school gates and beyond.

Parents today are left out of the technology planning and procurement at schools. We will help change that. By putting in place processes and tools to give parents and learners ways to exercise their rights around their personal data, we will help restore autonomy and agency. Families should understand how children's data is collected—and what schools, the State, and any contracted third parties do with it.

Our partnership work includes

  • Continuing our #LabelsLastALifetime campaign with over 15 groups and children's organisations to challenge the Department for Education's Alternative Provision Census expansion (2018—)
  • The Against Borders for Children Coalition, a 20 strong collaboration by anti-racism and human rights' organisations to end pupil data use for the aims of the Hostile Environment
  • Working with national government departments in education, digital and policing policy and local government authorities on Local Authority policy and practice
  • Building on our work with The Warren Youth Group in Hull to create a forward looking plan of change that appeals to and reaches young people in ways that work for them
  • Establishing effective discussion with companies in the edTech industry to improve practice, both reducing the impact of corporate activity on children's digital rights and cooperation to make change
  • Finding new allies and making new partnerships to build consensus for change.

We work with a range of consultants on a project-by-project basis, and volunteers who support our everyday work in research, policy, communications and to help us to carry out our campaigns. We welcome new supporters. Please contact us here.

Achieving change

We seek to build a rights respecting environment in education in England and Wales and beyond.

Some of the regulation that affects children in England, is shaped by the laws and regulation or lack of them, where the products are made.

Some of the laws that best protect children from the worst of the British State come from beyond the UK including human rights laws from the Council of Europe. Some of the harms are imported because products and corporations come from all around the world.

We are proud of our track record working with civil society around the world, and with organisations with global reach to shape the regulatory landscape that benefits communities with similar and shared concerns and the respect for human rights.

Our international work includes

  • Establishing effective discussion with actors in the edTech industry from Australia and the U.S or who process data outside the UK
  • Working with civil society and data protection authorities worldwide in the COVID-19 pandemic to find allies with shared goals to promote children’s digital rights under threat from the rapid adoption of edTech at speed and scale
  • Continuing our joint-work with organisations such as the Council of Europe Committee of Convention 108 on the data protection of children in educational settings, and Council of Europe Committee on Digital Citizenship’s Working Group on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Education

Our voluntary Advisory Council helps us ensure that our policies are well informed, and to keep our strategy on track for a sustainable future.

Members include academics and activists, professionals and parents; each has direct or indirect interests in education, the public sector, human rights, and technology in the UK and abroad. Their experience ranges from teaching to being school governors, research, campaigning, or engagement with young people, children and schools. Others have data protection, legal, policy, privacy and technology expertise.

Each may give defenddigitalme independent advice about a range of issues and we may differ on positions. The views of the member may not represent the views of defenddigitalme, or vice versa.

If you are interested in becoming a member please contact us.

Advisory Council members 2022

Ade Adewunmi @Adewunmi
Ade works at the intersection of data, digital and strategy at FastForwardLabs. Prior to taking on her current role, Ade worked as an industry consultant with Teradata where she focused on public sector organisations, especially those operating within the health sector. Before that, she led the Government Digital Service’s Data Infrastructure programme. Drawing on her cross-sector experience, Ade advises organisations on sustainable and responsible ways to make use of their data and harness the power of machine learning. She blogs about the ways in which data can be made useful for organisations and wider society and the sort of leadership and organisational cultures that make this possible.

Dr Veronica Barassi @veronicabarassi
Veronica is a Senior Lecturer in the Department and convenes the BA Anthropology and Media Degree. She is one of the founders of the Goldsmiths Media Ethnography Group and the principal investigator on the Child | Data | Citizen (2017-2019) project, funded by the British Academy. She was the PI of the ‘Social Movements and Media Technologies: Present Challenges and Future Developments’ Seminar series’ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK (2015-2017) and vice-chair of the Digital Culture and Communication Section of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA). She is currently the chair of the E-Seminars of the Media Anthropology Network of the European Association of Social Anthropology. Her work on digital citizenship, activism, big data, and ethnography has appeared on top ranked international journals and she is the author of Activism on the Web: Everyday Struggles against Digital Capitalism (Routledge, 2015).

Dr Godfred Boahen @GodfredBoahen2
Godfred is the National Safeguarding Policy and Development Lead at the Church of England and formerly the Policy and Research Officer for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), the UK professional body. After a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Oxford University, Godfred trained as a social worker and practised in safeguarding children and services for disabled children. He subsequently earned his PhD in research on mental capacity and learning disability. In his current role at BASW, Godfred is working on a project funded by Health Education England to enhance social workers’ ‘digital capabilities’.

Phil Booth @EinsteinsAttic@medConfidential
Phil coordinates medConfidential, which campaigns for confidentiality and consent in health and social care, seeking to ensure that every flow and use of data within and around the NHS and wider care system is consensual, safe and transparent. Founded in early 2013, medConfidential works with patients and medics, service users and care professionals, drawing advice from networks of experts, and partnering with related campaigns across the UK and around the world. Phil previously led NO2ID from 2004-2011, campaigning successfully to defeat the introduction of ID cards and other ‘database state’ initiatives. His work as an advocate has been recognised by awards from Privacy International (2008) and Liberty (2010). Phil was an honorary research associate of the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham from 2002-2012, and advises a number of organisations and initiatives seeking to provide individuals with more meaningful control over their own personal data.

Gracie Bradley @graciemaybe
Gracie Mae Bradley is a human rights policy expert, writer and activist. She lead policy and campaigns work to defend civil liberties in the policing, immigration, counter-terror and data/tech contexts as interim Drector at Liberty until 2022, and was a founding member of the grassroots Against Borders for Children campaign. She has written on state racism and civil liberties for The Guardian, The Independent, Vice, the Verso blog, the Pluto Press blog, Labour List, Media Diversified, and Consented Magazine. Her publications include ‘A Portrait of the Colonised’, in EUROTRASH, published in 2016 by Merve Verlag, and ‘From Grenfell to Windrush’ in After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response, published by Pluto Press in 2019 and recently co-wrote, Against Borders: the Case for Abolition published by Verso Books in 2022. She holds an MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics, and a BA (Hons) in Philosophy and French from Trinity College, Oxford.

Rachel Coldicutt @rachelcoldicutt
Rachel is the founder of Careful Industries and the former CEO of Doteveryone, the think tank that champions responsible technology. Rachel started working with new and emerging technologies in the 1990s for companies including BT, Microsoft, BBC and Channel 4. She was subsequently an award-winning pioneer in the digital art world and has more recently worked as a consultant, helping banks, healthcare businesses and energy companies adapt to the digital world. She holds a number of advisory and non-executive roles with businesses, academic bodies and charities. Rachel is also currently writing book on climate change, equality and automation. Rachel was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2020 New Year Honours for her services to technology.

Ruth Coustick-Deal @Nesient
Ruth is a podcast producer and host, researcher, writer and communications expert. She has a background in technology and human rights, with experience in campaigning, policy research, and fundraising. She currently co-hosts the Intersection of Things podcast, an intersectional feminist take on how technology is changing lives. It discusses real-life stories on big issues today like Health, Parenting, and Smart Cities. A feminist internet writer, she maintains her own blog, medium.com/@ruthcoustickdeal where she writes about critical issues within the digital rights movement. Her particular focus areas are place-based consent; security labour, and advocating for an empathy-based approach to campaigning. Her work has been featured on the radio, print and on other podcasts.

Dr Nathan Derejko @NathanDerejko
Nathan is based at the University of Essex School of Law and Human Rights Centre. Previously he was a Teaching Fellow in Human Rights at University College London (UCL) on international human rights law, and war and international law. Nathan has worked with a number of human rights and humanitarian organisations in Canada, Europe, East Africa and the Middle East, including as a Programme Coordinator for the Canadian Red Cross, Legal Advisor for the Civic Coalition for Jerusalem, and has served as an expert member for various NGO advisory councils. Nathan has also delivered advanced training sessions on international humanitarian law for military personnel and government agencies at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, Italy. Nathan’s work and research focus on issues of counter-terrorism and human rights, the protection of human rights during armed conflict, and the use of force under international law. Nathan has a PhD in international human rights and humanitarian Law from the University of Essex in the United Kingdom, an LLM in international human rights law from the National University of Ireland Galway, and a BA in Political Science from Dalhousie University in Canada.

Katrina Ffrench @FfrenchKatrina
Katrina is Founder and Director of Unjust C.I.C and was StopWatch’s first Chief Executive from May 2018 until late 2020. Since joining the organisation Katrina has overseen the publication of several reports: Being Matrixed: The (Over)Policing of Gang Suspects in London, The Colour of Injustice: ‘Race’, Drugs and Law Enforcement and Call it off: are police searching phones illegally? Katrina’s interest in sociology, law, politics and social justice and was further fuelled when she embarked on a Social and Political Science undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. Since graduating in 2009 Katrina has gained a wealth of political and charitable experience from her work with multiple charities and different local authorities. In 2015 Katrina actively began volunteering her time to provide community scrutiny to the policing power of stop and search; she was the chair of the Islington Stop and Search Community Monitoring Group for three years. Katrina has experience of sitting on the executive committee of local and regional community partnership boards. She has held the vice-chair and chair positions on the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime Pan-London Stop and Search Community Monitoring Network and currently sits on the Violent Crime Prevention Board.

Dr. Sandra Leaton Gray @drleatongray
Sandra Leaton Gray is Associate Professor in Education at the UCL Institute of Education. She is a former teacher and sociology of education specialist, with a special interest in social and ethical issues surrounding contemporary identity, biometrics, artificial intelligence and algorithms. Sandra is the author of Teachers Under Siege (2005) and, with Andy Phippen, Invisibly Blighted: The digital erosion of childhood (2017) as well as Curriculum Reform in the European Schools (2018, with David Scott and Peeter Mehisto). Sandra is a member of the Privacy Expert Group of the Biometrics Institute, a Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge University, and a Director of The Privacy Practice, a boutique privacy consultancy.

Dr Orla Lynskey @lynskeyo
Orla is an Associate Professor at the LSE and a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges. She teaches and researches in the areas of data protection, technology regulation, digital rights and EU law. She holds law degrees from Trinity College Dublin, the College of Europe (Bruges) and the University of Cambridge. She is a non-practising Barrister, having worked in Competition law practice in Brussels. Orla is an editor of International Data Privacy Law (OUP), the Modern Law Review and the European Law Blog, and is a member of the Editorial Board of the European Data Protection Law Review. She also sits on the EU Commission’s GDPR expert-stakeholder group.

Mark Martin @urban_teacher
Mark is recognised around the world for his insight and passion for education and technology. He has taught ICT for over 10 years and has become an expert in helping teachers and schools use technology to improve teaching and learning. Mark is an international speaker travelling to different countries inspiring educators to become better facilitators. Mark is also actively involved in the UK tech sector, supporting tech companies and promoting cultural diversity within organisations and founder of UK Black Tech. Mark was awarded an MBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to education, technology and diversity.

Dr Diego Santori Diego is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Society at King's College London. Diego is interested in the role of high-stakes testing and school performance data in contemporary education systems, and the ways in which they produce new cultural forms and practices. This is, the ways in which test-driven policies and initiatives impact on educational institutions, shaping the curriculum as well as teachers, parents and pupils’ practices. In particular, he has researched the impact of standardised testing and league tables on school practices in Chile, with attention to the role of affect and emotions in the production of test scores. Diego is also interested in the key role of policy networks in education

Ruth Swailes @SwailesRuth
Ruth has over 25 years’ experience in primary education, over 20 of them in senior leadership roles including primary headship. Ruth has worked as a School Improvement Advisor, Primary consultant, Early Years consultant and moderator in several Local Authorities; supporting leaders and teachers to improve outcomes for pupils. Passionate about Primary education, particularly Early Years, Ruth has taught from Nursery to Y6. In 2014 she left headship and trained as an Ofsted inspector, combining this role with a number of other roles in education. Ruth currently fulfils a range of different education improvement roles. She works part time as a School Improvement Advisor to 19 Local Authority schools. Ruth also works with a range of MATS, Teaching Schools Alliances, Academy and LA schools throughout the UK providing training, school improvement advice, appraisal, coaching, mentoring and practical advice and support.

JJ Tatten @jjtatten
Director at The Warren Youth Project, an independent youth-led charity which, for the past 38 years, has been providing vital support services to young people aged 14-25, many of whom are marginalised and vulnerable. Operating from a former fire-station in Hull city centre, The Warren’s 25 strong-staff team offers free support, guidance, training, education, counselling, employability skills, and creative expression activities and opportunities for those young people. The Warren believes all young people should have the right to access the space, freedom and skills necessary to become their best selves.

Pat Walshe @PrivacyMatters
Pat is an independent consultant and managing director of Privacy Matters. He has over twenty years’ experience in data protection, privacy, information security, interception and disclosure law, data for development, and mobile identity in addition to regulatory policy in the fixed, mobile and Internet sectors. Pat is passionate about the role of technology and data and the value, opportunities and benefits they bring to individuals, communities and to society, but equally remains concerned to guard against risks to individuals and groups. He has served on the International Standard Organisation’s Privacy Steering Committee and is a member of the British Computer Society. He was also a member of the UN Global Pulse Privacy Advisory Group on big data, sits on the international advisory board for the Adaptive Security and Privacy project and was a member of an external ethics panel for a leading mobile operator on the use of big data for development. Pat was made a Privacy by Design Ambassador by the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner in 2013. Pat also recently authored guidance for UNICEF on Notice and Takedown: Company Policies and Practices to Remove Online Child Sexual Abuse Material.

Jhanelle White @notjane
Jhanelle is a chemistry undergraduate at King’s College London. She is the current president of the KCLSU Chemistry Society, and a representative on the departmental Equality and Diversity Committee. She is a former member of Dudley Youth Council, and founder and chair of the non-partisan organisation Political Sweep. With a history of student activism, Jhanelle previously led the Equality and Diversity Debating Enrichment, and the Student Equality and Diversity Action Group at King Edwards VI College Stourbridge, while sitting as the student union officer for Equality and Diversity.

Veronica Yates @veroyates@CRINwire
Veronica Yates was the Director of the Child Rights International Network until 2022 – CRIN, where she has been working for over 15 years. Her firm commitment to rights, not charity for children has laid the foundations for CRIN’s recent transformation: from a business-as-usual NGO to a radical new way of operating and behaving, with at its core, the central question which all NGOs should be asking themselves: do we really need to exist? This led CRIN to adopt its very own Code, which sets out the principles that guide the work and how we should behave as human rights organisations. In its new iteration, CRIN defines itself as a creative think tank that produces new and dynamic perspectives on human rights issues, with a focus on children’s rights. Its mission is to challenge the status quo because the norms that dictate children’s place in society need radical change. Through research, artwork and a vision for the future, CRIN encourages people to think critically about the world and start their own conversations. Veronica is highly ambitious for CRIN’s developing role and believes that small, focused organisations can make a disproportionate impact by working collectively with unusual suspects; it’s not about growing, it’s about networking better. To this end, CRIN is exploring new ways of working with artists, activists, environmental campaigners and children and young people. Veronica has travelled extensively with CRIN and other organisations. She was Co-­chair of the International NGO Council on violence against children, held several Board positions, including of Child Soldiers International, Approach Ltd. and Child Rights Connect, and is a member of the Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch’s Child Rights Division and supporting the incubation of the Right to Education Initiative. While Veronica has stepped down from CRIN this year, she remains on our board in a personal capacity.

The Warren youth members@TheWarrenHull
Two young people from The Warren Youth Project – an independent charity that has been providing vital support services to marginalised and vulnerable young people in Hull for over 30 years. Operating from a former fire-station in Hull city-centre, the Warren’s staff team offers free support, guidance, training, music, education and counselling services to young people aged 14-25 who are experiencing unemployment, homelessness, isolation, abuse, bullying, neglect, domestic violence, family-relationship breakdown, learning difficulties, racism and homophobia. They also work closely with young people who have physical and mental health support needs.

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