Charities fined for screening wealthy donors

Currency was a key issue during the 2014 referendum.
Currency was a key issue during the 2014 referendum.
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A total of eleven charities have been fined thousands of pounds for secretly screening millions of donors so that they could target them for extra funds, the privacy regulator has revealed.

The organisations have been hit with the fines - of up to £18,000 - by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for breaches of Data Protection law such as profiling and targeting supporters based on their wealth.

The ruling by the ICO said that some of the charities, which included Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, traced and targeted new or lapsed donors by piecing together personal information obtained from other sources. Meanwhile, others traded personal details with other charities creating a large pool of donor data for sale.

Two others - Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Heart Foundation - were fined late last year as part of the same investigation. The ICO said there are no other outstanding investigations as part of the operation.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that the fines had been lower than would be handed to a private company found to be operating the same practices.

She said: “Millions of people will have been affected by these charities’ contravention of the law. They will be upset to learn the way their personal information has been analysed and shared by charities they trusted with their details and their donations.

“No charity wants to alienate their donors. And we acknowledge the role charities play in the fabric of British society. But charities must follow the law.”

Other charities hit with fines were The International Fund for Animal Welfare, Cancer Support UK,

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, The Royal British Legion, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, WWF-UK, Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home and Oxfam.

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said that the charity had “acted in good faith in attempting to follow both good practice and the law as we understood it”.

A spokesman for the Royal British Legion said: “No donor’s data was lost, sold or compromised in any way and we have invested heavily in our data operations since and are confident that no such contraventions will happen in the future.”