The Catalan Data Protection Authority (APDCAT) has studied new ways of collaborating with the third sector this Monday, in order to extend the knowledge of data protection between volunteering and associations. In the framework of the session "New challenges in data protection in the third sector", organized at the Palau Robert, representatives of entities, associations, foundations and other entities in the social and cultural field have put on the table their needs to improve the implementation of data protection in their organizations. Especially in those with fewer resources and where many of its members are often volunteers.
The session, which was attended by about fifty people and which were also able to follow electronically about 200 people, was used to make a diagnosis of the state of the issue, analyze the weaknesses and seek bridges of collaboration to remedy them. The director of the APDCAT, M. Àngels Barbarà, was in charge of opening the session. Next, the head of the Associative Support Department of the Fundació Catalana de l’Esplai (Fundesplai), Víctor Garcia, provided his particular vision as a representative of the third sector. Then, the head of the Inspection and Technical Area of the APDCAT, Blanca Peraferrer, moderated the round table "Data protection in associations and volunteering", which included the intervention, among others , Rafael Ruiz de Gauna, Director of Institutional Relations, Training, Consulting and Studies at the Pere Tarrés Foundation; the secretary of the Council of Associations and Volunteering of Catalonia, Marc Viñas; and the data protection delegate and head of strategic projects at APDCAT, Joana Marí.
The aim of the meeting was to connect with the third sector, so that they have a reference in compliance with data protection regulations, raise awareness among organizations and their volunteer staff about the responsibilities that arise when processing personal data and involve for them to convey this awareness of privacy in their actions.
The third sector in Catalonia is made up of more than 75,000 associations and federations, 2,600 foundations, 19,200 sports organizations, and almost 4,500 cooperatives, linked to the social, welfare, cultural, youth, cooperation, environmental, sports, community, religious, educational fields. , women, the elderly, etc. The third social sector has 559,000 associates and 367,000 volunteers. Its work has helped 1.5 million people, according to the latest available figures.
Volunteering as the backbone
The director of the APDCAT, M. Àngels Barbarà, recalled that third sector entities have a plus of responsibility, as they deal with data from vulnerable groups and special categories of data, which have enhanced protection. He pointed out that "there is a need to raise awareness and train people who need to have access to data" and called for the culture of privacy to be integrated into the day-to-day running of organizations.
For Barbarà, "volunteering can be a backbone of the dissemination of the importance of privacy", and has argued that thinking about how to incorporate it at the time of designing the activities. He warned that "we indiscriminately disseminate personal data and we are not aware of the loss of control that this entails". Among other consequences, he spoke of the loss of personal autonomy, because the knowledge of our data can make us be influenced by others, invisibly, when making decisions. "We need a society with the necessary knowledge to be critical of the use of technology and its impact",he concluded.
New present and future challenges
On the other hand, the head of the Department of Associative Support of the Catalan Leisure Foundation (Fundesplai), Víctor Garcia, spoke about the new challenges in data protection from the perspective of the third sector. Garcia pointed to regulatory complexity, specialization and terminology as factors of difficulty. Among the challenges, he spoke about the need to be proactive and how to overcome technical difficulties. He also highlighted two of the main challenges such as the digital transformation of organizations and the different actions arising from the pandemic situation. He has defended the formation of teams, and the need for their professionalism.
He therefore recalled the importance of existing free services as key factors, both for advice and information, tools and resources, training and support. He also highlighted the role of society as a lever for change, and said that we are increasingly aware of the risks and more demanding. For Garcia, the learning processes in organizations are another key factor in achieving success, as well as the role of data protection supervisory authorities, the role of administrations, third sector entities. second and third level, codes of conduct, certifications and solutions shared with third sector entities.
Despite the difficulties, Garcia made a positive assessment and stressed that the entities are becoming more aware of the fact of guaranteeing the rights of the different groups of people with whom they interact.
Contributions to the round table
The session had a round table in which experts in the field were able to share their considerations. In this sense, the director of Institutional Relations, Training, Consulting and Studies of the Pere Tarrés Foundation, Rafael Ruiz de Gauna, recalled that third sector organizations work for people in a vulnerable situation and that preserving their information is essential , to build trust and dignity. He highlighted the vocation of public service and volunteering that mobilize third sector organizations. He also pointed out that the entities with fewer resources are in the majority and have more difficulties in enforcing the legislation. For this reason, it has opted for “the guarantee and regulation of rights not to stifle non-profit social initiative”, and measures such as the simplification of requirements are applied according to the characteristics of the entity, training and digital support tools and joint management with federations and second-level entities.
For his part, the Deputy Director General of Social Cooperation and Volunteering of the Generalitat, Marc Viñas, has called for the public authorities to activate support and training programs for volunteer organizations, to accompany them at the same time to take care of their responsibilities towards the protection of personal data and that, in return, this allows them to continue to put all their energies into social work.
Viñas stated that voluntary organizations are organizations that are completely committed to fulfilling their mission and pointed out that this must be the case, because their task of social transformation reverts to the general interest and the common good. He recalled that voluntary organizations are legal organizations that, as such, have obligations to fulfill and responsibilities to attend to, despite the weak or non-existent professional structure of many of them. Among these obligations is the processing of personal data they manage, both volunteers and beneficiaries.
Finally, Joana Marí emphasized that collaborative work between the APDCAT and the third sector is essential to find the most suitable and effective tools and strategies to achieve the objectives set: to make more people aware of the impact that technologies they have in their life and how to make the most of them without losing their rights along the way.