Global One charity fined £10K for sending out 573K unsolicited texts

Global One. Pic: Twitter

The charity Global One has been fined £10,000 by the Information Commissioner after sending out 573,000 unsolicited direct marketing messages in April and May last year resulting in 548 complaints.

Global One, which focusses on improving health, sanitation and agriculture in the UK and abroad, used a third party to conduct the marketing campaign which was apparently based on that party’s own database.

However, Global One has not revealed the identity of the third party and their name has been redacted from the Information Commissioner’s report.

When 5Pillars challenged this the Information Commissioner said: “We would not supply a copy of the redacted document, they have been redacted from it because, on the evidence we have, the organisation had nothing to do with the contravention by Global One who are the focus of this particular contravention.”

But 5Pillars understands that many of the complainants had one thing in common – they had previously donated to another particular charity.

During Ramadan 2020, Global One sent out text messages encouraging recipients to watch their fundraiser on British Muslim TV which contained variations of the following text:

“Coronavirus Emergency Pakistan, Syria & Bangladesh. Donate Food & Hygiene Kits. Call (free): 03000113333 Online: globalone.org.uk Watch us live on SKY 752.”

However, these texts did not offer individuals an ability to opt-out of future unsolicited text messages.

Global One told the Commissioner that it had entered into a “revenue raising and sharing agreement” with an unnamed provider which would provide a marketing strategy and would undertake an SMS campaign to maximise donations which Global One assumed would be based on the provider’s own marketing lists.

The data was obtained from multiple sources including “government records, licensing boards, directories, telephone searches, memberships, attendee registers, website registrations, county courthouse records, credit reference agency data, Secretary of State data, business magazines and newspaper subscriptions.”

Global One CEO Husna Ahmad

In August 2020 the Commissioner requested that Global One provide evidence of the consent that had been obtained by the third party data provider to market the complainants. In response, Global One explained that it did not have access to this information and the third party provider was reluctant to supply it. As such, no evidence of consent has been provided.

The Commissioner went on to request copies of correspondence between Global One and the third party data provider relating to promotional or marketing activities. Global One replied stating that they had been unable to locate any such written communications regarding the SMS marketing campaign which was carried out on their behalf. The reason given was that all such communications were conducted by telephone.

The Information Commissioner concluded that Global One had relied on consent obtained by another organisation for its own purposes, i.e. “indirect consent.” However, the Commissioner’s direct marketing guidance says “organisations need to be aware that indirect consent will not be enough for texts, emails or automated calls. This is because the rules on electronic marketing are stricter, to reflect the more intrusive nature of electronic messages.”

Jamal Ahmed, of Kazient Privacy Experts, handled many of the complaints against Global One. Commenting on the ruling he said: “Personal Data is an amanah and must be treated with the respect it deserves. I was appalled at the fashion in which Global One illegally obtained the personal data of so many Muslims and violated their privacy.

“I am pleased the ICO has taken action against Global One. My team has worked tirelessly on a pro bono basis towards this outcome…

“Faith based charities are not above the law and must respect Data Protection Laws. We will assist each and every victim to pursue justice against Global One. Our legal partners have issued a civil claim against Global One. If you received a text message from Global One you may be entitled to compensation. If you are a victim and you want justice; register here and we will be in touch.”

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