Charity fundraising update

Yesterday the ICO, the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator held a joint conference to clearly set out the regulatory requirements and expectations for fundraising bodies and their boards under current and forthcoming data protection legislation.

ICO, Elizabeth Denham called for positive change for the sector. She was keen to stress that the sector must stop viewing data protection as something more than mere compliance. “Everyone must stop focusing on the paperwork of privacy and move towards commitment to the people whose data they have – commitment to managing personal data legally, sensitively and ethically.”

She was fast to reassure delegates that she understood the value of fundraising, but said the sector needed to accept the ICO’s rulings on data protection – which included the use of wealth screening, data matching and data appending.

About wealth screening a paper published by the ICO prior to the conference states:

Your privacy notice must be detailed enough to ensure donors have a reasonable understanding of what wealth screening is and how you’ll use their personal information to do it. Simply stating that you may analyse their personal information to predict future levels of donation is likely to be too vague.

On data matching and appending the paper says:

It could be argued that individuals may have forgotten to give you the information or update you about moving house, for example. But you cannot assume this is true. Even if they’ve forgotten, they still wouldn’t reasonably expect you to contact them via a phone number or email address they never gave you. Just because information about a person is publicly available, it cannot be considered “fair game” and charities cannot assume they consent to that data being used for any purpose

She was clear in her view that whilst wealth screening, data matching and appending are not against the law, the way many charities carry out these activities is in breach of data protection and consequently illegal. If donors are not aware of how their personal information is being used it cannot be considered a ‘fair’ use of the data.

She urged the sector to fundraise in such a way that respects the fundamental privacy rights of each and every donor, or face further investigation.