Survey of its Members by the TCS

A member of a club or association is under no obligation to disclose every detail of his personal life to the club committee. If the personal data requested has no direct connection with the objects of the club, the committee must inform its members in advance of the purpose for which the data will be used and advise them that the disclosure of personal data - as there is no direct connection with the objects of the club - is made on a voluntary basis.

The TCS requested its members without much in the way of explanation to complete a questionnaire. This included questions on members' spouses and partners (surname, first names, date of birth, nationality), on dependant children, on annual household income, and on hobbies, etc. Numerous TCS members contacted us wanting to know whether the TCS had any right to request information of this nature in this way.

The TCS receives detailed information on individual members from the completed questionnaires that are returned. It is therefore processing personal data and must accordingly comply with the terms of the Data Protection Act. We have explained in detail to the TCS that it has acted in a manner that does not conform to data protection requirements in a variety of respects. For example, the principle of transparency (principle of good faith) requires that clear and comprehensive information be provided on the purpose and scope of the personal data to be processed. Those questioned must also be advised whether their personal data will be passed on to third parties and - if this is the case - to whom and for what purpose. The principle of reasonableness permits only the processing of personal data that is genuinely required to achieve the objective that has been set. The tying of the collection of data to a specific objective in turn obliges the data processor to process the data only for the purpose that was stated when it was obtained.

Through this survey, the TCS will receive a mass of information from its members that is not directly necessary for the achievement of the objects of the club. It must therefore draw its members' attention to this fact, and specifically point out that participation in the survey is voluntary.

Following our intervention, the TCS agreed to rectify the faults in its procedures and it stated that it intended to inform its members in the club magazine of all the details relating to the survey that had been carried out (e.g. the aims and objectives of the survey, extent of the data processing, any forwarding to third parties, period for which the data will be retained, right to withdraw data, liability for the survey, etc.).

The TCS has also provided an assurance that it will draw up a data protection policy in the near future in order to guarantee that it deals with its members' personal data in a manner that conforms to the data protection provisions at all times.

[July 2003]