U3A Oversights

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Data protection issues

The editor of the new site for Medway U3A commented : "The new Developments site has given me a lot of food for thought. I have just started our website and am going to discuss it at our next Committee Meeting. The only thing which concerns me is Data Protection. I suggested to the Committee that we attach our Newsletter either password protected or with all email addresses and phone numbers deleted. Neither option was agreed. Some U3As seem to just attach their Newsletter anyway, complete with contact details. What do you suggest?

This is a big topic. On Oversights we are careful to show only information from pages which are already publicly-accessible. so the new development doesn't raise any extra data protection issues. But we have had many discussions with editors in the past on this topic with respect to their own sites. The advice which we always give is not to show members' private addresses in public pages, to obtain permission from owners before publishing telephone numbers, and to use the "add email" option for email addresses rather than entering them in plain text where the "spambots" can find them. Apart from that, to put as much information as possible on public pages where visitors can see them easily without having to download documents, preferably taking advantage of the Site Builder's built-in options for managing groups, group pages and event details. But each U3A is an independent organisation with its own policies, so there is a wide variety of practice about all those points.

The ability to password-protect documents is provided so that editors can upload electronic copies of newsletters containing personal information, and a fairly small proportion of U3As (55 at a recent count) use the facility. But it is likely that the need to remember a username and password in order to download a document is probably a deterrent even to visitors who are entitled to see the information. And there are other ways of distributing newsletters to existing members anyway, whether in print or by email. So it is probably best to focus on using the web site as a way of reaching out to potential members, and making it as easy as possible for them to find out about all your U3A's activities.