Privacy versus Transparency an Oxymoron

It is kind of an oxymoron to talk about privacy and transparency in the same breathe, but for non-profit and government this is exactly the dilemma they faces.  On the one hand they have to be transparent in what they do, in order to solicit support or contribution. On the other hand they need to be sensitive to the privacy of their stakeholders.  A balance act that is constantly changing as technology become more intrusive and cost of privacy keep going up. At the same time it is without a doubt a great time to be transparent there is no shortage of way to communicate, broadcast, advertise your message and internet and social media had just made it all the simpler.

Let examine each thought one at a time, and let take a look at transparency first. For non-profit and government it is not a matter of how but more a matter of what. Let me elaborate, one way to be transparent is to communicate with your stakeholders, and to do so you can achieve the result through the internet by your website.  You can also communicate your message through social media and with social media there is no shortage of tools/method to choose from, from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more to choose from. So it is often not how you communicate but what you communicate. This is where an organization like government especially need to be judicial on contents. To be transparent they need to communicate their vision, their process, their business are fair and about reproach. This is where procedures and processes should be publish and accessible to the public. Such information should stand up to public scrutiny so any future dealing will have a clear and concise process to follow and stand up to challenge from the public.

A lot of time both non-profit and government face a lot of heat from their stakeholder around their financial dealing. It is paramount such dealing should be clear and concise, especially for non-profit organization. Some years back before social media, I recall a newspaper article exposed most of the charity organization spend up to 80% and more of their funding on fund raising effort and the amount actual end up for their causes is less than 20%. Guess what that will do to your fundraising effort!

Fig 1 Framework for assessing Transparency

Now a day, information are more pervasive and stakeholder and public can easily get those information via the internet, charity need to be much more forthright in putting the funding towards their causes. While I am not advocating for folks that work for charity should be volunteer but those salary should not be the dominant portion of your budget.

Now what about privacy, being transparency does not necessary undermine privacy. Again with internet nowadays one could snoop out information easily. A lot of time information that are not secure can be hack in (ethical or not).  Whereas government and non-profit needs to be transparent in their dealing and operation the need to protect privacy had never been greater.  Where you need to be open about where non-profit funding go, the contribution and individual contributor must remain a secret (unless of course the donor seek that recognition). Otherwise donor list and their personal information must be guarded and protected at all cost.

For government it needed to guard the personal information of it citizen and protect them from unscrupulous people. Who can use the person information to impersonate your citizen and commit atrocity somewhere else, or rob your citizen blind of their hard earn procession?

To do this both organization needs to place in check and balance against accessing such individual data. However, being transparent can allow the access of an aggregated persona, such persona are extremely important in crafting policy and create media campaign for funding.

It’s also wise such aggregated information can be and should be kept separately. With advance of technology it’s easy to partition your database and secure the personal side with encryption and a careful controlled list of access personal and procedures in place.

For non-profit mining contributors and donors information is a potential gold mine, but mining these data should be done in a very control process so the actual donor information will not be exposed. But carefully group into distinct donor list so the organization can tailor and target their campaign at a later date.  Such donor list and access to them should be tightly control  and should always leverage existing technology and lessen the number of people directly involve in handling such list.

Fig 2. Transparency Vs Privacy

Well Transparency and Privacy need not be an oxymoron or have one outweigh the other. The important things is to develop a well publish easy to understand steps to handle the process and procedures. So to allow maximum amount of transparency in day to day operation, while maintaining the privacy of all stakeholder involve.





Forbes. Forbes Magazine. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <>.


“ – Blog.” – Blog. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <>.

“Research.” Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <>.


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