Privacy chief accused of sucking up to the Daily Mail

daily mail 2One of the UK’s most highly respected charity marketing specialists, Stephen Pidgeon, has challenged the motives of Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, amid accusations that she is cosying up to the Daily Mail in her office’s clampdown on the sector.
Following the recent ICO ruling against the British Heart Foundation and the RSPCA on the wealth screening, the former Target Direct Marketing chief has raised serious concerns about Denham’s assertion that organisation’s need “express permission” to carry out this analysis.
In a blog post, Pidgeon said: “[Denham says that wealth screening] is not allowed – it’s against the Data Protection Act without express permission. But the Act is much vaguer. It is the opinion of the Information Commissioner. What sort of ‘express permission’ would ever be given? ‘We want to find out how rich you are; tick here to agree’?”
He added: “My guess is that 90% of the larger charities in this country have been wealth screening their donors for decades, with no more ‘permission’ than the RSPCA and the BHF.
“So, too, have 100% of the commercial firms that target their products to the value of customers. This issue is not confined to charities. Yet, in all the 100-plus ICO adjudications in 2016, I could not find a single commercial firm censured for wealth screening.”
Pidgeon explained that in the charity investigation reports, the Commissioner gives weight to her view that wealth screening is “likely to cause substantial damage or distress”.
But he pondered: “Has she evidence for this? Is it a personal view, or the Daily Mail’s? It is far from clear that it’s the law.”
Pidgeon also questions why news of the ICO adjudication appeared in the Daily Mail 48 hours before its official release. “A leak was denied by the Commissioner, but I feel there was a clear atmosphere of inappropriate political drama,” he said.
Having stepped down from Target in 2011, Pidgeon is now involved in a number of charity consultancies and is also Visiting Professor of Direct Response Fundraising at Plymouth University.

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