Volunteer Obligations to Data Protection Law

Working with Volunteers and Ambassadors

A recent case that we dealt with highlighted the need to ensure your ambassadors are properly informed about their obligations to data protection law when processing personal data.

The case in question concerned a fundraising campaign that necessitated the recruitment of volunteers acting as ambassadors to raise important funds by contacting their friends, family, and associates. The volunteers would be equipped with email content and information about the charity and then asked to promote the campaign in any way possible including by, emails, social media and contact by telephone. The campaign was time sensitive, ambitious, and meticulously planned, except for one thing; there was no mention of data protection or the use of personal data.

According to UK data protection law, in such circumstances, the appointment of volunteers might be seen as an extension of the existing team or data controllership, acting in the best interests of the charity and empowered to seek support from others; the volunteers must therefore follow the organisation’s policy and also uphold its obligations to UK data protection law. If you decide that the volunteer is acting in their personal and domestic capacity, this might not apply. However, in our opinion as you have instructed them and provided materials and information, this is unlikely. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR) governs such activity. In particular, fundraising emails and texts asking for support could be unlawful because the charity must have the consent of the individual receiving the information before it is sent. The empowered volunteer cannot therefore send out the materials or any kind of ask without prior consent. It would naturally follow that any electronic channel with an ‘inbox’ would also apply to this requirement. Of course, it’s entirely possible that telephone calls (subject to checking with the Telephone Preference Service) and face to face meetings could be a suitable way to deliver the message and indeed a way of gathering consent for the electronic comms later.

So, we recommend that you seek to ensure the volunteers are aware of their responsibilities, sign them up to an agreement which should acknowledge the charity’s policy and where necessary ensure they are trained in data protection which may help to avoid an infringement in the future.

If you have any concerns about this or any other matter concerning data protection law, please contact Hope and May on 0330 111 0013 0or email us at info@hope-may.com

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