The Importance of PII to Your Lodge

In creating a website for an Odd Fellows lodge, one of the members had a request to not allow their picture to be shown on the website at all. While it may seem that this member’s request was a bit strange, it should absolutely be taken seriously by all lodge members. Privacy still matters and should absolutely be embraced as part of a lodge policy regarding PII or Personally Identifiable Information.

In Europe, it is the law that people have a “right to be forgotten” and as a result, data you share on the Internet can create a liability. And this is to say nothing about data breaches where PII is harvested and sold on the black market.

The fact that Odd Fellows as an organization has not embraced a policy to protect PII in the Internet age doesn’t mean your lodge should ignore the issue. But there may be some good news…

Your Lodge Probably Has a Policy About PII and You Don't Realize It

Don’t believe it? Think about it…

Your lodge probably has a directory or contact list maintained by the Secretary so that members can be reached by phone and by letter. This confidential information is know as PII and you probably have an informal (unwritten) policy to either share it with all of your members or only with your lodge officers. The bottom line is that if you already have a contact list, then you have a list of PII and you probably have already determined who can access it. You’ve already got the beginnings of a PII policy for your lodge to use beginning with that one fact. The next step is to put it in your by-laws so that mistakes can be avoided.

Don’t think this is a big deal? What would happen if one of your lodge members sold your lodge directory to a salesman? This is the exact reason why we want to have a PII policy and the reason why it’s for the Good of the Order to embrace PII policies just as we have done with updates to by-laws to make it clear that Odd Fellows will not allow an informal policy of discrimination anywhere in the Order.

And what about your website and your social media presence? Believe it or not, every day people are being fined by organizations that claim they have the rights to some images which clearly should not have an owner because the image was created over a hundred years ago beyond the days of modern copyright law. Why should we care? Addressing it can avoid a lawsuit or a fine!

Here is a sample text you can use for your by-laws if you want to either make it official and avoid the proverbial “unwritten rule.” Adjust as necessary, but remember this is to protect your lodge.

“All personally-identifiable information (PII) pertaining to members (such as contact lists or pictures) must be safeguarded by the Noble Grand. All PII is confidential and is not to be published or sold externally (except for an obituary) or internally (such as a membership directory) unless the Noble Grand has obtained explicit permission from the concerned member(s).

Pictures/likenesses of members of the lodge, guests of members or attendees at events must be considered PII and treated with special regard; it may be necessary to obtain photography/video release forms before . All pictures, images and copyrighted materials must be used with permission only so as to avoid lawsuits for unauthorized likeness/image use and/or copyright violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which can result in fines exceeding tens of thousands of dollars.

This is just a sample text for use in your lodge by-laws, but it covers the greatest threats that can result from misappropriation of PII from selling a contact list of your lodge members to putting an unlicensed/unauthorized image on your website which can result in a five-figure fine (which DOES happen by the way).

Click the links here for more information about the DMCA and a Forbes article about PII.