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Eleven UK charities fined for breaching data laws

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Information Commissioner takes action against leading charities who breached privacy of donors

Eleven charities have been fined by England’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for breaching data protection rules.

The commission found many of the charities secretly screened millions of donors so they could target them for additional funds.

It also discovered some traced and targeted new or lapsed donors by tracing information from other sources.

And some traded personal details with other charities, creating a large pool of donor data for sale.

The ICO said that some of the charities had hired companies to profile the wealth of their donors, which was done by investigating their incomes, lifestyles, property values and friendship circles among other means.

The commission published the names of the charities and the amounts each have been fined.

Major charities including Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, The Royal British Legion and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Macmillan Cancer Support and NSPCC were among those fined a total of £138,000 for “serious breaches of data protection laws.”

Individual fines were kept between £6,000 and £18,000, because donors would be unhappy at more severe financial punishments, said the ICO.

The 11 charities fined for the breach

The International Fund for Animal Welfare – £18,000

Cancer Support UK – £16,000

Cancer Research UK – £16,000

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association – £15,000

Macmillan Cancer Support – £14,000

The Royal British Legion – £12,000

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children – £12,000

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity – £11,000

WWF-UK – £9,000

Battersea Dogs’ and Cats’ Home – £9,000

Oxfam – £6,000

“Supporters of animal charities could have their information shared with homeless, humanitarian or religious charities even though the supporters only expected their information to be shared with other animal charities,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said.

“Some charities don’t know if the information has been shared one or 100 times. This can result in lots of unwanted charity marketing.”

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “People 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.

“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.”

The Charity Commission said: “The generous British public expect charities to safeguard their data and raise funds responsibly, and in return they donate in their millions.

“Sadly in these cases charities have not kept their side of the bargain. We are working with the charities concerned, the Information Commissioner and the Fundraising Regulator to ensure that any necessary remedial action is taken.”