European Commission says Institute of Fundraising's data fears are unfounded

Commission spokeswoman says that criticism by Peter Lewis, the institute's chief executive, is based on a misinterpretation of data protection proposals

European Commission
European Commission

The European Commission has said that concerns voiced by the Institute of Fundraising about EU proposals to reform data protection rules are unfounded.

Earlier this month, Peter Lewis, chief executive of the IoF, wrote to Neelie Kroes, vice president of the commission, and three UK MEPs, raising concerns about the impact that new data protection legislation would have on direct mail fundraising.

A statement from the IoF said the proposed changes would mean that a potential donor would have to opt in for their data to be used for marketing purposes, even when they already gave to charity. "Put simply, if adopted in the current form, the proposed regulation would result in charities being less able to raise money for good causes," said Lewis.

But a spokeswoman for the European Commission told Third Sector on Friday that the institute had misinterpreted the proposals.

She said that under the existing data protection directive, consent was one of several criteria that could make the processing of personal data lawful. Another of these is when the person using the data has "legitimate interests" in doing so. The spokeswoman said this was used by the marketing industry and could continue to be used under the proposed changes.

"The commission has not proposed to change this in its data protection reform proposals," she said. "Explicit consent is not mandatory for direct marketing under data protection directive 95/46/EC – consent is irrelevant in such cases. It will continue to be irrelevant."

But she said that it was important in the context of direct marketing to provide people with a right to object to their data being used.

For example, in a situation where data had been collected only for the purposes of someone taking part in an event, and they had not been told that the data would be used for further direct marketing, that person must be informed that their data would be used this way and given the opportunity to object.

Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research at the institute, said in response that it welcomed any clarification on how the proposals would affect the activities of charities.

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