Privacy by design: using data protection for better information sharing

18 Jun 2013     Last updated: 13 Nov 2014

A recent seminar (Friday 14 June) held by NICVA in conjunction with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) highlighted the benefits of good information sharing practices for voluntary and community organisations.

The seminar provided plenty of clear and practical advice on how to go about sharing information and the things to think about when working in partnership.

Data protection can sometimes seem a complex and daunting issue for organisations to tackle. Even knowing where to start can be a challenge. That’s why NICVA was keen to bring people together from across the sector to discuss data protection in its series of seminars Essentials of data protection. Working up from an initial introductory session to the more specialist seminars on fundraising and marketing and working in partnership/sharing information, these seminars provided an opportunity to ask all those awkward questions and to find out that we weren’t alone in asking them.

Guest speakers at Friday’s seminar were:

  • Nigel Treanor, Senior Policy and Operations Manager (NI) at the Information Commissioner’s Office, and
  • Andrew Talbot, Legal Adviser at CollaborationNI, a project funded by the Building Change Trust, delivered by a partnership of NICVA, CO3 and Stellar Leadership.

Working in partnership and sharing information between organisations is becoming more common within the voluntary and community sector. Government policy and funding bodies increasingly advocate collaborative working to deliver services yet sharing information between organisations carries inherent risks.

Information sharing has been hitting the headlines in recent days with the revelations over Prism, the national security electronic surveillance programme operated by the United States National Security Agency, but information sharing is not limited to large organisations and/or government agencies. Information sharing covers the everyday processes our organisations carry out. If you outsource your payroll, share information with partners, funders or departments; if you share office space with another organisation; or if you share personal information about your staff or service users within your organisation then the same principles apply to you.

When considering different scenarios and questions the same two concepts were introduced again and again by Nigel: consent and confidentiality. The best way to ensure you comply with the legislation is:

  1. to make sure you have consent to share by way of a privacy notice, and
  2. to put in place confidentiality safeguards by way of an information sharing agreement.

In addition, Andrew outlined the range of work and support carried out by CollaborationNI, all of which is free for voluntary and community organisations to access.


Further information

The presentations from each of the three seminars are available to download below.

There is a wide range of information available on the Information Commissioner’s Office website

There are two guides organisations will find especially useful:

Data Sharing Code of Practice

Privacy Notices Code of Practice

Volunteer Now has published a clear and concise guide to Retention of volunteer personal information:

Look out for NICVA’s upcoming Guide to data protection which will be published in the next few weeks.


Coordinator, Leeann Kelly; e: [email protected]
Legal Adviser, Andrew Talbot; e: [email protected]
tel: 028 9087 7777

Northern Ireland Information Commissioner's Office
t: 028 9027 8757 or 0303 123 1114 (lo-call number)
e: [email protected]

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