How we use your information

This privacy notice tells you what to expect when the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) collects personal information. It applies to information we collect about:

  • visitors to our websites
  • complainants and other individuals in relation to, for example, freedom of information queries
  • people who use our services
  • job applicants and our current and former employees

Visitors to our websites

When someone visits www.victimsservice.org we collect standard internet log information and details of visitor behaviour patterns.  We do this to find out things such as the number of visitors to the various parts of the site.  We collect this information in a way which does not identify anyone.  We do not make any attempt to find out the identities of those visiting our website.  We will not associate any data gathered from this site with any personally identifying information from any source.

If we do want to collect personally identifiable information through our website, we will be up front about this.  We will make it clear when we collect personal information and will explain what we intend to do with it.  For example: if you send us a query using the Contact Form on the website, we will collect your email address and any information that you disclose in that email.

Use of cookies by the VSS

Cookies are small files which many web sites transfer to your hard disk.  They are widely used in order to make websites work, or work more efficiently, as well as to provide information to the owners of the site.  This information enables web sites to provide you with a more personalized service.

Most web browsers allow some control of most cookies through the browser settings. This means that you can set your browser to refuse cookies, or to warn you before accepting them.  To find out more about cookies, including how to see what cookies have been set and how to manage and them, visit www.aboutcookies.org or www.allaboutcookies.org.

 People who email us

The VSS IT system is part of the Northern Ireland Civil Service network. Any email sent to us, including any attachments, may be monitored and used by us for reasons of security and for monitoring compliance with the network policy.  Email monitoring or blocking software may also be used. Please be aware that you have a responsibility to ensure that any email you send to us is within the bounds of the law.

People who make a complaint to us

When we receive a complaint from a person we create a file containing the details of the complaint.  This normally contains the identity of the complainant and any other individuals involved in the complaint.

We will only use the personal information we collect to process the complaint and to check on the level of service we provide.  We do compile and publish statistics showing information like the number of complaints we receive, but not in a form which identifies anyone.

We usually have to disclose the complainant’s identity to whoever the complaint is about. This is inevitable where, for example, the accuracy of a person’s record is in dispute. If a complainant doesn’t want information identifying him or her to be disclosed, we will try to respect that. However, it may not be possible to handle a complaint on an anonymous basis.

We will keep personal information contained in complaint files in line with our retention policy. This means that information relating to a complaint will be retained for two years from closure. It will be retained in a secure environment and access to it will be restricted according to the ‘need to know’ principle.

Similarly, where enquiries are submitted to us we will only use the information supplied to us to deal with the enquiry and any subsequent issues and to check on the level of service we provide.

People who use VSS services

The VSS offers various services to the public.

We have to hold the details of the people who have requested the service in order to provide it. However, we only use these details to provide the service the person has requested and for other closely related purposes. For example, we might use information about people who have accessed a particular service to carry out a survey to find out if they are happy with the level of service they received. When people do engage with our services, they remain free to disengage at any time.

Job applicants, current and former VSS employees

When individuals apply to work at VSS, we will only use the information they supply to us to process their application and to monitor recruitment statistics. Where we want to disclose information to a third party, for example where we want to take up a reference or obtain a ‘disclosure’ from the Criminal Records Bureau we will not do so without informing them beforehand unless the disclosure is required by law.

Personal information about unsuccessful candidates will be held for 12 months after the recruitment exercise has been completed, it will then be destroyed or d. We retain de-personalised statistical information about applicants to help inform our recruitment activities, but no individuals are identifiable from that data.

Once a person has taken up employment with the VSS, we will compile a file relating to their employment. The information contained in this will be kept secure and will only be used for purposes directly relevant to that person’s employment. Once their employment with VSS has ended, we will retain the file in accordance with the requirements of our retention schedule and then it.

Complaints or queries

VSS tries to meet the highest standards when collecting and using personal information. For this reason, we take any complaints we receive about this very seriously. We encourage people to bring it to our attention if they think that our collection or use of information is unfair, misleading or inappropriate. We would also welcome any suggestions for improving our procedures.

This privacy notice was drafted with brevity and clarity in mind. It does not provide exhaustive detail of all aspects of VSS’s collection and use of personal information. However, we are happy to provide any additional information or explanation needed. Any requests for this should be sent to the address below.

Access to personal information

VSS tries to be as open as it can be in terms of giving people access to their personal information. Individuals can find out if we hold any personal information by making a ‘subject access request’ under the Data Protection Act 1998. If we do hold information about you we will:

  • give you a description of it;
  • tell you why we are holding it;
  • tell you who it could be disclosed to; and
  • let you have a copy of the information in an intelligible form.

To make a request to the VSS for any personal information we may hold you need to put the request in writing addressing it to our Information Officer, or writing to the address provided below.

If you agree, we will try to deal with your request informally, for example by providing you with the specific information you need over the telephone.

If we do hold information about you, you can ask us to correct any mistakes by, once again, contacting our Information Officer.

Disclosure of personal information

In most circumstances we will not disclose personal data without consent. However when we investigate a complaint, for example, we will need to share personal information with the organisation concerned and with other relevant bodies.

Links to other websites

This privacy notice does not cover the links within this site linking to other websites. We encourage you to read the privacy statements on the other websites you visit. Please read the VSS Disclaimer notice for more information.

Changes to this privacy notice

We keep our privacy notice under regular review. This privacy notice was last updated on 13 January 2014.