European fundraising associations to lobby MEPs over EU data protection proposals


traffic jamEuropean fundraising associations to lobby MEPs over EU data protection proposals.

This report on a meeting in London involving the fundraising sector reminds us that the European Regulation on Data Protection still faces a long way to go. As currently written, use of data to profile people will be unlawful unless consented to by the individual.  Moreover, it will be unlawful to solicit donations by mail or by telephone without prior express consent of the individual. While we don’t doubt the ability of the European marketing community, including those specializing in fundraising, to rise to the challenge if need be, surely the creation of a great big wall labeled “CONSENT” between businesses and the donating public lacks, shall we say, nuance.

The American fund-raising community continues to find letter mail to be their most effective channel.  You can tell the full story of the problem being addressed, the solutions the organization advances, and the positive impact on lives they are having.  Opt-out in this medium has worked quite well on both sides of the Atlantic. And in any event the medium is less and less frequently employed.  Why “fix” what isn’t broken?  The potential for collateral damage is great.

And, is it too much to suggest that well-written fund-raising letters tell a story just like a newspaper?  Is the prohibition on using letter mail to “tell a story” a restriction on the freedoms of press and speech?

The point raised in this article relates to the eager rush of policy-makers in Europe to effectively  outlaw profiling for any and all purposes without express consent. This is very unsettling in an even more fundamental fashion.  The data will, and must, be used for myriad beneficial functions. Consent would prevent this.  Take one simple and mundane example from the roadway system.

In a world that is increasingly crowded and urban, profiling of public and personal behavior on the roads will be critical for demand projection and resource planning.  If I were a road planner responsible for highways around Brussels, I would love to have data showing where every vehicle in the system comes from and goes to in entering and leaving my system.  I can then plan expansion, substitution, schedule maintenance, install traffic lights and do all the things a good planner does.

But, to do it optimally, I need to identify each vehicle so I can identify repetitive users.  They are probably (?) the most numerous of my “customers”.  Ideally, I need to know where they come from and are going to, not just where they enter and leave my system.   And I haven’t a moment’s hesitation in assuming that the new Regulation would call a license plate “personal information”.

In terms of digital progress, Europe risks sticking its economy into the tar pit of the late 20th Century called “data protection”.

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