When charities adopt new technology, they need to think about safeguarding
Technology can transform lives. With the right digital tools, charities help make things easier for their service users. Tech can enable charities to transform internal and external operations – allowing them to reach more people than ever before.
In order to help charities, the Charity Code of Digital Practice outlines best practice guidelines on digital ethics. When charities consider new technology, the code of practice encourages charities to think about the pros and cons.
How, and in what way, digital tools are used is important for charities to think about. Doing good also means following a code of ethics. Ethics applies to the digital world as much as it does the physical world. We take a look at some of the practical ways to safeguard tech for good and how charities are doing this in practice.
Charities have an ethical and legal duty to protect private information. Legally, the UK’s Data Protection Act and GDPR legislation requires charities to have in place procedures which protect personal information.
Charities have valuable personal information on supporters, employees, and volunteers. Digital constituent relationship management (CRM) systems help charities keep track of personal data. These systems are home to sensitive data and could be vulnerable to threats.
Digital systems, including ones developed by charities, can be made more secure. The NCVO recommends first checking physical access to tech for good systems. To protect proprietary systems, increasing safeguarding measures are important. Key questions to ask are:
By checking access and security levels, charities can be confident that data is stored safely.
Making sure that digital ethics are part of your team’s core thinking helps prevents data breaches. Embedding charity digital ethics across the organisation can ensure that staff remain vigilant.
Employees should be aware of what can happen when tech for good goes bad. They key issues we’ve identified are:
By embedding digital ethics as part of your culture, tech for good causes can stay good.
Charities are doing ground-breaking work to support people in need. In the mental health sector, the scale of the problem is huge – using tech for good means that more people can be helped at scale, but this needs to be done safely.
“We got our safeguarding down pretty tightly in terms of how if somebody comes into your practice, or consultancy room, you kind of know the things you’re looking for – whether their family circumstances, how are they personally, what other agencies they’re interacting with – what are the key signs of what’s going on. We know how to do it as a face-to face practitioner. The challenge is translating into the digital world.”
- Chris Martin – CEO, The Mix
The Mix has both in-person and digital services available. For their digital leaders, the physical world’s protective mechanisms are mimicked online.
“What we’ve always looked at is our online community – if you look at the principles that apply there it’s really similar to the youth club. You’re looking at how you engage with people, how you speak to them. All of those things are done, but it’s just rendered in a digital world. We use real world principles which we know work and apply them to the digital world.”
- Chris Martin – CEO, The Mix
Dedicated online resources can help dispel some of the risks of using tech. Charity Digital’s podcasts offers advice for safeguarding technology. The podcast series discusses with how ethics can apply to the digital world and gives practical advice to charities.
Enhancing online security is one solution to protecting charity digital technology. We recently identified common cyber security threats and how to protect against them. For charities using the cloud as their main storage hub, Amazon Macie helps identify and protect sensitive data. We have also seen Breast Cancer Now use BreachAlert, which can check CRM systems for external threats.