SMILE! You’re on our Mailing List!

world map

Charity envelope time again.  And yet again another organisation I had no relationship with at all. This time it was a big one with offices in…are you ready…

UK, USA, India, China, Philippines, Latin America, Mexico, Brazil, Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, Middle East & North Africa and Bangladesh.

Surprisingly in all these locations they couldn’t find a data protection expert to run his eye over their Privacy Policy. This is puzzling as you can find good information about their accounts and activities quite easily on the web. (£7m donations in 2014 and over 125,000 children helped all over the world). They look like they’re doing a good job except for the unsolicited mailing that dropped through my door today.

They sent 2 full colour glossy A4 double sided leaflets. 10 sticky gift tags to attach to Xmas presents, an A5 double sided full colour leaflet, an eight page A6 booklet about their work, a donation form to return and an envelope. If they’d not spent their money on these pieces of coloured paper, 2 of which were customised to say my name and address they might have had more in the kitty to help the children they featured in their leaflets. Nowhere on any of these pieces of paper is there a mention of the Data Protection Act. Nor is there a phone number so I could tell them quickly I didn’t want their unsolicited mailing. Presumably their marketing expert advised them not to offer this simple mechanism of objecting as it might result in people using it. So I found their website and had a look.

After a while I found their Privacy Policy. It was extensive and told me a lot about the cookies it used. No mention of the Data Protection Act again. Some of the interesting sections were

  1. Your acceptance of this policyBy using our site, you consent to the collection and use of information by XXXXXXX  in accordance with our Privacy Policy.  If you do not agree to this Policy, please do not use our site. In order to fully understand your rights we encourage you to read this Privacy Policy.

(Mmm a good one to start with. You have to use the site to find the policy before you can read it, but by using the site you have already agreed with their policy even though you haven’t read it, which they want you to do).

  1. Changes to this privacy policyXXXXXXXX  reserves the right at any time and without notice to change this Privacy Policy simply by posting such changes on our site. Any such change will be effective immediately upon posting.  Your subsequent use of this website after we have made changes to this policy (including the submission of information on our donation form) will be deemed to signify your acceptance of any variations that we make.

(So when they change something and before you find out about the changes by reading their policy you have already agreed to the changes you haven’t yet read about).

3. Sharing your information with third parties

From time to time, XXXXXX allows other worthy organisations to send communications to our donors via direct mail.  We carefully screen these organisations to ensure their services may be of interest to our supporters. If you do not wish to hear from these organisations, please let us know by contacting us. 

(Wow what a good one. Firstly that great phrase “from time to time” I thought this had died out but here it is again and what it really means is whenever we feel like it…”. The following few words shows the staggering arrogance of the organisation. We ALLOW other worthy organisations to send communications to OUR donors. Despite the fact that there is a law that prohibits this they ALLOW it and the donors aren’t any free thinking individuals  – they belong to the organisation and the organisation can do with their personal data what they want. Did the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 have a clause in it exempting charities. Er… no  And there’s more – what is a worthy organisation? One that helps children? One that  only uses recycled paper? One that pays their directors in bit coins? We have no idea what this cute little phrase means. It implies that Data Controllers don’t have to bother with Principle 2 if you’re passing data to ‘worthy’ organisations. 

It gets worse. The last element is giving you the right to write to them and object to receiving communications from what they think are worthy organisations that have been through a screening process although you don’t know much about their screening methods if they do in fact exist, and ended up on a list of organisations they sell your data to but which they may not keep).

It seems they are relying on the mythical but desirable exemption in the Act that says Charities are completely exempt from the DPA and also it seems exempt from writing simple Privacy Policies in Plain English.

Read more about how EU Data Protection Regulation will change the DP landscape. Attend our full day workshop.


Author: actnowtraining

Act Now Training is Europe's leading provider of information governance training, serving government agencies, multinational corporations, financial institutions, and corporate law firms. Our associates have decades of information governance experience. We pride ourselves on delivering high quality training that is practical and makes the complex simple. Our extensive programme ranges from short webinars and one day workshops through to higher level practitioner certificate courses delivered online or in the classroom.

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