ICO monitored Christian Aid, Greenpeace and the RNIB for three months

The charities were placed on a watch list while the Information Commissioner's Office investigated potential breaches of data-protection law

Christian Aid, Greenpeace and the RNIB were monitored by the Information Commissioner’s Office over a three-month period during its investigation into charity data-protection breaches last year, the regulator has revealed.

The three charities were among 15 charities and two call centres that had voluntary compliance meetings with the ICO. Advice letters were also issued to six of the 15 charities, the regulator told Third Sector.

The ICO investigated and issued fines totalling £181,000 to 13 charities for breaching data-protection rules after the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday newspapers carried out investigations into fundraising practices involving several major charities.

In its annual report, published last week, the ICO said it had engaged with a range of other charities over concerns about compliance but had not taken punitive action, either because the issues were resolved or no causes for concern were found.

An ICO spokesman told Third Sector that the regulator had held voluntary compliance meetings with 15 charities, including Christian Aid, the disability charity Caudwell Children, the Royal Voluntary Service, WWF-UK, the RNIB, Greenpeace, the Trewan Sands Children Trust, the RNLI, and the British Red Cross.  

It also held meetings with the NSPCC, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and Oxfam, all of which were among the charities eventually fined in relation to practices such as data matching and wealth screening.

One other charity also held a compliance meeting, but the spokesman was unable to confirm its identity on Monday morning. 

In a statement, the ICO spokesman said these meetings could have taken place before or after any enforcement or support action.

Caudwell Children’s Trust, the PDSA, the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation, the National Deaf Children’s Society, the Royal Voluntary Service and the RNLI were all issued with advice letters and no further action was taken, although four of them had follow-up meetings with the ICO, the regulator said.

Meanwhile, Christian Aid, Greenpeace and the RNIB were "placed on monitoring and their compliance assessed over a three-month period", the spokesman said.

At the end of the three months, all issues were considered to have been resolved and no further action was taken, the spokesman said.

He said organisations could be monitored in cases where there had been a few complaints or if the regulator thought that an organisation could make improvements to the way they were processing personal data or conducting direct marketing practices.

"We would expect to see an improvement or implementation of new processes in order to ensure their compliance," he said. "This was the case with the three charities that were placed on monitoring."

A spokesperson for Greenpeace UK said the charity had been placed on the monitoring list because eight complaints were raised about cold calling.

He said: "We investigated every one of them, and in all cases we found that we had complied with both our strict protocols and the law.

"We passed on our findings to the watchdog, which concluded the evidence was satisfactory and took us off the watch list as a result. We have made a clear promise to our supporters and the UK public that our fundraisers will not call people who haven't given prior consent to it. It's a promise we're determined to keep."

An RNIB spokeswoman said: "At the RNIB, it’s really important to us that all of our fundraising is carried out in a respectful and responsible way, and we regularly review the ways in which we contact our supporters to make sure this is the case.

"Guidance and support from bodies such as the ICO is invaluable in ensuring we continue to adopt best-practice guidelines and follow regulations, and we cooperated fully with their enquiries. Following a period of monitoring, we were pleased that the ICO was satisfied and no further action was taken."

Christian Aid declined to comment.

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