ICO Fines Top UK Charities For Data Protection Breaches

data breach, security

ICO fines RSPCA and British Heart Foundation for “wealth screening” to get more donations

Two of the UK’s biggest charities have been accused of breaching data protection regulations by screening donors without their knowledge or consent, according to an investigation carried out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) both reportedly carried out “wealth screening” on millions on donors so they could be targeted for more money, as well as trading their personal details with other charities.

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ICO charity fine

They also used “tele-matching” techniques to find out additional personal information that donors failed to disclose. The ICO investigation found the BHF did this with several hundred thousand people, whilst the figure for the RSPCA is likely to exceed one million.

Read More: How Just Giving uses big data to grow donations

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham slammed the charities for their “widespread disregard for people’s privacy,” adding: “The millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened to learn that their generosity wasn’t enough. And they will be upset to discover that charities abused their trust to target them for even more money.

“Our investigations suggest that the activities we’ve fined the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation for today are also being carried out by some other charities.”

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The RSPCA and BHF have been fined £25,000 and £18,000 respectively, with Denham deciding to hand out reduced sentences to avoid adding to any distress caused to donors and due to the possibility of further penalties in the sector.

However, she highlighted that this discretion “should not take away from how serious these breaches were, nor from how disappointed donors will be with the two charities we’ve fined today.”

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