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29th Sep 2021

Parents could be sued for outing children with Covid-19 in group chats

“People can actually be sued”

There is a very big difference between informing parents about your own child’s positive Covid test and spreading gossip about children who have reportedly tested positive.

The HSE urged parents to stop gossiping about possible Covid cases in WhatsApp groups yesterday.

They may believe it is harmless gossip, but it could cause a lot of legal trouble.

A data expert has confirmed that spreading misinformation like this can actually end up with them being sued.

According to Newstalk, people in these groups are breaking GDPR legislation.

Data expert Darragh O’Brien said, “It is worth bearing in mind that people can actually be sued for breaching data protection rules. It is not just the Data Protection Commissioner, there is also civil liability.”

He added, “The processing of information for domestic use – for your own personal or household use – is outside the scope of the legislation but once you move into an organised public sharing of information, even if you are not a school or a business etc, you are in that grey area where you could actually fall under the scope of the legislation and all that comes with it.”

He added that parents seriously need to think before they spread this information in WhatsApp groups. Think before you start gossiping about the health status of a child.

Spreading rumours about children with Covid-19 also causes extreme distress for their family, who are already under enough pressure with a Covid case in their home.

“Would they like it if it was being said about them and also is it true and if it is not true, is it harmful or hurtful to people?” O’Brien asked.

Outing children who have Covid-19 does nothing but spread stress and cause harm. Informing parents about your other child is perfectly fine because that’s your information to share.

However, spreading gossip like a pre-teen on the schoolyard just isn’t the way to go.