Last week, Charity News Alert (1) featured an item on The Data Sharing Review Report (2), recently produced by Richard Thomas (Information Commissioner) and Mark Walport (Wellcome Trust). Charity News suggests that “charities could face poorer quality direct marketing lists and lower response rates if a recent recommendation banning the sale of electoral register data to marketing organisations goes ahead”. So, I decided to look for the report, and see what else had been suggested.
Well, I found an 80 page pdf file, and had a quick look (eighty pages! It’s a hard life)
Charities warrant a few mentions:
The authors “recommend that rigorous training of those responsible and accountable for the handling of personal information, backed-up by enhanced professional development, accountability, reporting and audit, will effect a major improvement in the handling and sharing of data”. That sounds good, although personal experience suggests that kind of support is not always forthcoming.
“When people give their personal information to a public body, a charity or a commercial business – especially if they agree to that information being shared with other parties – they have a right to expect that they will be told the purposes for which their information will be used, who will use it, with whom it will be shared, how long it will be retained, and how it can be updated.” That could lead to a much greater awareness of the use of database cleaning and database screening services, and list swapping.
“A specific area where there is far too little transparency concerns the identification of bodies with whom organisations share personal information. Many companies or charities ask people to tick boxes on their paper or online forms indicating their consent to sharing their information with ‘selected third parties’. It is not usually made clear who these third parties are.”
Is there anything there to worry about? What will happen to the recommendations? The forward of the report was addressed to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice, requesting the response of the Government to the recommendations, with a timetable for their implementation.
There is a consultation process underway “to examine the Information Commissioner’s inspection powers” and “to scrutinise funding the Information Commissioner’s duties”. (3)
There’s probably a lot more in the report to give us food for thought. Do let me know what you find ….