ICO Investigation Reveals Exploitation of Charity Supporters

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and British Heart Foundation (BHF) secretly screened millions of their donors so they could target them for more money, a comprehensive ICO investigation has found. The ICO said so-called ‘wealth screening’ was one of three different ways both charities breached the Data Protection Act by failing to handle donors’ personal data consistent with the legislation. The charities also traced and targeted new or lapsed donors by piecing together personal information obtained from other sources. And they traded personal details with other charities creating a massive pool of donor data for sale. Donors were not informed of these practices, and so were unable to consent or object. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said, “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.” “The investigation was one of a number into the fundraising practices of charities. The investigations were sparked by reports in the media about repeated and significant pressure on supporters to contribute… This widespread disregard for people’s privacy will be a concern to donors, but so will the thought that the contributions people have made to good causes could now be used to pay a regulator’s fine for their charity’s misuse of personal information.” She has fined the RSPCA £25,000 and BHF £18,000.