Can DWP check your Facebook?

Can DWP check your Facebook? In this blog post, we are going to talk about the obligations DWP has regarding collecting, using and holding your personal data.

We’ll explain what type of data DWP uses and who else has access to that information. 

DWP collects personal data

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The Department for Work and Pensions holds basic information, such as your name, address, date of birth, about everyone who has been allocated a National Insurance number.

The types of data that DWP processes about people will depend on the contact that DWP has with them.

An easy way to see what kind of information DWP processes for a particular benefit is to look at the claim form for that benefit.

What DWP uses personal information for

DWP collects information to deal with:

  • social security (this includes benefits, grants, loans, pensions, and Housing Benefit)
  • child maintenance
  • the investigation or prosecution of offences relating to tax credits and benefits
  • prevention and detection of fraud, and protecting public funds
  • employment and training
  • promoting financial planning for retirement
  • policy relating to occupational and personal pension schemes
  • research and analysis into matters listed above

The information DWP collects about an individual depends on the reason for your business with them, but they may use the information for any of these purposes, too.

For example, DWP uses your National Insurance number to help identify you when you use DWP services.

Your National Insurance number is used by DWP and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), and Department for Communities if you live in Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Government if you live in Scotland.

DWP will not use your data to try and sell you things or sell your data to anyone.

The types of data that DWP use

The types of data that DWP processes about people will depend on the contact that DWP has with them.

An easy way to see what kind of information DWP processes for a particular benefit is to look at the claim form for that benefit. 

Types of data that DWP processes include:

  • personal details
  • family, lifestyle and social circumstances
  • financial details
  • employment and education details
  • goods or services provided
  • education and training details
  • visual images

DWP also processes sensitive information that may include:

  • physical or mental health details
  • racial or ethnic origin
  • political, religious or other beliefs of a similar nature
  • trade union membership
  • sexual life
  • genetic data
  • biometric data
  • offenses including alleged offenses
  • criminal proceedings, outcomes, and sentences

If DWP process your personal information, they will:

  • make sure you know why they need it
  • only process the personal information they need
  • make sure nobody has access to it who should not
  • keep it secure
  • tell you through this charter or in other ways if we share it with other organisations
  • ask you to agree to us sharing your information where you have a choice
  • only keep it for as long as we need to
  • not make it available for commercial use (such as marketing) without your permission

If the DWP asks you for personal information, you need to:

  • give them accurate information
  • tell them as soon as possible if there are any changes, such as a new address, when you start work or earn more

This helps them to keep your information accurate and up to date, pay you the right amount of benefit, provide the best possible service. 

Data protection principles

The DWP complies with the data protection law. This says that the personal information they hold about you must be:

  1. Used lawfully, fairly and in a transparent way
  2. Collected only for valid purposes that we have clearly explained to you and not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes
  3. Relevant to the purposes we have told you about and limited only to those purposes
  4. Accurate and kept up to date
  5. Kept only as long as necessary for the purposes we have told you about
  6. Kept securely

Who DWP holds information about

DWP processes data about:

  • members of the public
  • customers and claimants
  • people who live in the customer’s or claimant’s household
  • suppliers and services providers
  • advisers, consultants, and other professional experts
  • complainants and enquirers
  • relatives, guardians, and associates
  • offenders and suspected offenders
  • employees

DWP holds basic information (such as your name, address, date of birth) about everyone who has been allocated a National Insurance number.

This information is used by DWP and HMRC, and also by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland.

This is used by HMRC to keep records of employment and National Insurance contributions, and by DWP to pay benefits, administer pensions. 

DWP sometimes needs information about people other than the person who has applied for a benefit or service to work out what that person is entitled to.

For example, where a person makes a claim for Universal Credit, they need information about other people who live in the same household to work out how much the person will be paid.

How DWP shares information about you

DWP may share information with and get it from other organizations such as:

  • other government departments
  • local authorities
  • social security organizations in other countries
  • employers and potential employers
  • social landlords
  • private-sector bodies, such as banks and other organizations that may lend you money, and credit reference agencies
  • charitable and welfare organizations

The reasons the DWP is sharing their data include:

  • check the accuracy of information
  • help people with particular difficulties, such as troubled families
  • help people get or stay in work
  • child maintenance
  • help people get education and training to improve their chances of getting work
  • support people with independent living, including home help and respite care
  • prevent or detect crime
  • check payments for services
  • protect public funds
  • use for research or statistical purposes

Some social security services are also delivered under devolution agreements, for example by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government, and some local authorities.

DWP shares information when necessary for these services, as permitted by law.

DWP service providers

Many DWP services are delivered with the help of other organizations, such as contractors, local authorities, charities, and others.

The DWP sometimes need to share data with these organizations so they can provide DWP services properly.

Read more about the DWP Data Protection Officer on this page.

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How long DWP keeps your data

DWP keeps some basic information for as long as your National Insurance number exists, such as your name, date of birth and address.

Most benefit records and information provided for other DWP services are kept after the claim ends for the period necessary for any appeals, reviews and other activity to be completed.

Payment records may be kept for longer, usually 6 years if they are relevant to the tax you pay.

You have the right to access the data that DWP holds about you. DWP does not charge for this.

The data protection laws also provide you with:

  • the right to be informed
  • the right to rectification
  • the right to erasure
  • the right to restrict processing
  • the right to data portability
  • the right to object
  • the right to not be subject to automated decision-making, including profiling

Conclusions

Many people are stressed by the thought that DWP can check their Facebook pages and use their photos as evidence later in court.

In this blog post, we showed you what are the legal rights and obligations of the DWP regarding collecting, using and holding your personal data.

We explained what type of data DWP uses and who can have access to that information.

Under the data protection law, you have the right to know what information DWP holds on you, and they can easily share that data if you submit a free request on their website.

Can DWP check your Facebook? Well, under the types of data DWP can use, visual images are legal to use, however, the eventual source of that information is not specified.

In our opinion, somebody can only have access to Facebook and Instagram if your privacy settings are not set properly.

So, if you are concerned that DWP will check your social media pages and will use any information against your claim, all you have to do is to go through your privacy settings. 

We are curious about what your opinion is, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment or ask a question in the comments section below. 

FAQ about Can DWP check your Facebook

Can DWP check your bank account?

A DWP authorized officer can access bank account information if they believe they have sufficient grounds.

Can DWP watch your house?

DWP can watch your house, they might be waiting outside in a parked car and typically they watch to see who is coming in and out of the house and what condition they appear to be in.

What information does the DWP hold?

DWP holds basic information (such as your name, address, date of birth) about everyone who has been allocated a National Insurance number.

Why would DWP visit someone’s home?

The DWP Visiting Team can visit you at home to help you with your benefit claim.

For example, if you have mobility issues, and are do a medical assessment by an HP.

Do I have to inform DWP if I go on holiday?

If you’re going on holiday for a period of 4 weeks, it might not affect your benefit claim, but you should still inform the DWP you are leaving.

You can always contact the Citizen Advice office for more information and guidance.

Does DWP keep phone records?

The DWP does not record all calls or keep phone records. They record some for training purposes mainly but not all calls are recorded.

Because they can’t always pre-empt which calls will be recorded they do have to give a warning that a call ‘may’ be recorded but this does not necessarily mean that it is being recorded.

Recommendations

  1. Protect Your Privacy: 17 Must-Know Ways to Keep Your Information Secure Online
  2. Protect Your Privacy: How to Protect Your Identity as well as Your Financial, Personal, and Computer Records in an Age of Constant Surveillance
  3. Privacy in the Age of Big Data: Recognizing Threats, Defending Your Rights, and Protecting Your Family 
  4. Privacy and Data Protection Law (University Casebook Series)
  5. The Basics of Digital Privacy: Simple Tools to Protect Your Personal Information and Your Identity Online

References

  1. Personal information charter – GOV.UK
  2. Benefits and Work Forum

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