The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) 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.”
Chief executive of the RSPCA, Jeremy Cooper, said: “This is obviously a very serious matter and I wanted to take the earliest possible opportunity to explain the situation and hopefully put your mind at rest.
“For over a year now, the ICO, which is responsible for the enforcement of the Act, has been investigating the data protection practices of a number of well-known charities, including the RSPCA.
“As a result of that activity the ICO has found that we have contravened the Act and issued a monetary fine. There is no suggestion that we lost or sold any personal data, but rather the ICO considers the information we gave to supporters on how their personal data would be used was inadequate.
“We are very disappointed with the ICO’s decision and disagree with many of their findings and conclusions.
“However, there has been one acknowledged contravention which we ourselves brought to the ICO’s attention.
“Whilst an inadvertent error was made in that instance, we do not agree it was so serious or had such harmful consequences to justify a fine. We did ask for the ICO’s guidance when this error occurred but they they did not reply to our request.
“We respect and value all of our supporters and would never intentionally do anything to place your trust in jeopardy.”
To read the full statement click here,.