Britain’s biggest charities acted as if they were ‘above the law’ and ignored warnings that it was illegal to buy and sell donor data, the Information Commissioner said.
Charities consider themselves ‘special cases’
The Commissioner, Christopher Graham told the House of Commons Select Committee that he was becoming “increasingly concerned” by the behaviour of the big charities, which behaved as if they thought themselves to be a “special case” after they attempted to secure a “trade-off” with the data protection watchdog over how personal details are used to raise funds.
Graham went on to request the government give him the power to imprison persons who sell or trade private data after arguing that financial penalties are proving ineffective.
“I became increasingly concerned that the evidence was that charity fundraisers believed they were somehow above the law and a special case and it took an awful lot of persuading that there wasn’t a trade-off to be done,” he said.
‘Not concerned’ with legal compliance
He went on to recount experiences with the Institute of Fundraising and some of the major charities where they were concerned not with legal compliance comply but whether there was some wiggle room and to see if there was a balance to be found between the privacy of individuals and the manifest needs of the charity and the fantastic work they were doing.
This follows claims suggesting that eight major charities ignored a letter from the Information Commissioner last year warning them not to ignore the Telephone Preference Service.
Graham also pointed out that the professional body governing the sector, The Institute for Fundraising “resisted” new guidance on data privacy back in 2013, only updating its website this year.
He cites this as a reason for making the guidance statutory and therefore forcing charities to take notice.
Learn from the experts
Does your charity need advice on data protection? Don’t miss Charity Digital Insights: Keeping Data Safe on Thursday 19th November at the Marriott Hotel Kensington.
Come and hear our expert speakers explain how charities should approach data protection, advise on the best practices for protecting personal information and share steps you can take to ensure sensitive data is kept safe.
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