Universities Accused of Data Laws Breach

Several Russell Group Universities have been accused of screening former student’s data in order to identify those more likely to donate money as part of a recent fundraising initiative.

Although profiling individuals for fundraising purposes isn’t illegal, it is illegal to do so without the individual’s prior knowledge, as has been alleged.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We will look carefully at the individual evidence provided to see if, and where, any rules have been broken and what learning there is for wider practice in this area.

“Personal data belongs to the individual and that means they have the right to make choices about how it’s used. The law requires organisations to tell people what it’s going to be used for and who it’s going to be shared with – and that’s what people expect.”

A spokesman for the Russell Group said donations from former students are used for a wide range of purposes including bursaries and new academic facilities.

He added that: “All Russell Group universities in England and Wales are registered with the Fundraising Regulator and when there are changes in guidance on best practice they will follow these closely.”

”Our members are hugely grateful for the ongoing commitment to higher education shown by so many Russell Group alumni and take their privacy very seriously.”

Ian White