Technology – are charities above the law?
Our brave new world of technology can make day-to-day work so much easier (most of the time), but it comes with a set of trip-wires just waiting for the unassuming charity. As featured in Third Force News, Val Surgenor discusses some of the golden rules charities should follow to stay on the right side of the law.
We are no longer able to say “that’ll never happen to us!” or “surely that doesn’t apply to us!”. Security risks and legal compliance are not just issues for big organisations or those out to make money. Whether using social media, fundraising through mobile apps or simply blogging to raise your profile, technology can present very real risks for even the smallest of charities.
The greatest defence in a charity’s armoury is awareness, and following some very simple golden rules (two of many are below) might help! Knowing what your legal obligations are, what your organisation is doing, where information and resources are coming from, and who has access to it, will certainly help.
1. Nothing in life is free (well, not always)
Fundraising, marketing, information sessions – all easier and more fun with access to digital design, social media and the internet. The internet is awash with content; however, just because something (a picture, an opinion, a research finding) is available online or even forwarded to you, does not always mean that you can use it for your own purposes free of charge. Sometimes even when it says “royalty free”!
You may not want to believe it but there are those who will sue your organisation (even a charity) for using, without permission, your innocent use of a picture, slogan or piece of text which they have created. Always ensure you have the right to use the pictures you post on your website or the statistics you quote on information leaflets. Simple acknowledgement of your use will not suffice.
If in doubt, do not use!
2. Data is king
Dealing with personal information is bread and butter for most charities – lists of benefactors, service user details, employee records, contact enquiry forms. Charities must collect and handle personal information in compliance with data protection laws.
Non-compliance can result in legal repercussions but the consequences go far beyond. Public support is vital to the third sector and no charity can afford the damage to reputation caused by unsuitable data processing or a data leak – people want to feel safe.
The public want to know why you (or the people you outsource this role to) need their data and what will you use it for (tell them, it’s not a secret!). The public want to know that you will use their data responsibly – only for the purposes for which they gave it to you. Seems fair enough?
Treat all data responsibly and use technology to protect it and responsibly destroy it when you no longer need to hold it. Have suitable policies in place and make sure your staff and volunteers are properly trained.
Technology will allow you to do much more for your organisation and educating yourself on your legal obligations and how to apply these in practice will go a long way to creating stress-free use of tech!
Contact our Specialist Compliance and Regulatory Lawyers
MacRoberts’ team of data protection specialists can provide expertise and advice to businesses wishing to adopt this proactive approach to compliance preparation. We pride ourselves on our diverse, resourceful and highly skilled team of compliance and regulatory solicitors, who have substantial commercial and legal experience, delivering a pragmatic and commercial approach to our clients and their businesses.
If you require advice, assistance or representation in relation to the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation obligations or any other compliance and regulatory matters, contact our team today for expert advice tailored to your needs and/or sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with the latest GDPR news and developments.