THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE (ICO) has fined 11 charities a total of £138,000 for routinely breaking privacy rules, building massive databases of personal data and sharing that data among themselves.
An investigation by the ICO between 2015 and 2017 that found that some of the countries biggest charities were flagrantly flouting data protection and privacy rules in their fund-raising activities.
In some cases, the charities were accused of using private information to target elderly and vulnerable people for donations, often based on information that wasn't freely given by their prospective marks donors.
Some used wealth-screening companies (like this one, perhaps) to better identify wealthy, especially elderly, potential donors and to target them for donations, especially for bequests in their wills.
And most of the charities shared this information among themselves - like scam artists swapping information on their most gullible rubes in order to help each other shake down more from their 'marks'.
Some of the best-known charities fined for such activities included Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home; Cancer Research UK, and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.
Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home was fined £9,000 for finding information about potential donors that they did not provide in order to target them for donations. Between 2011 and 2015, Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home used this approach to try to find out information more than 740,000 times.
Cancer Research UK was fined £16,000 for ranking potential donors based on their wealth, screening 3.5 million supporters in this way between 2010 and 2016, making more than 675,000 phone calls to solicit donations based on this data.
And Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity built a database of potential donors based on information they did not provide, sent 795,000 records every month to a wealth screening company and routinely shared personal data with other charities. For this, it was fined the sum total of £11,000.
The other charities were fined as follows:
- The International Fund for Animal Welfare, fined £18,000;
- Cancer Support UK, £16,000;
- Guide Dogs for the Blind, £15,000;
- Macmillan Cancer Support, £14,000;
- The Royal British Legion, £12,000;
- National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, £12,000;
- Oxfam, fined £6,000; and,
- WWF-UK, £9,000.
It follows on from big fines levied against the RSPCA and British Heart Foundation in December last year as a result of the same investigation.
The charities have arguably been let off extremely lightly - it's hard to imagine any company being let off by the ICO with fines of less than £20,000 for these kinds of transgressions.
And under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which will fully come into force in May next year, the charities could be fined up to four per cent of turnover.
Even so, the ICO could have fined them as much as £400,000 - and no staff appear to have been disciplined either. µ
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