USPA Protects Member Data
By Ed Scott
Since its earliest days, USPA has issued credentials to its members. It started with a simple membership number. In the 1950s, this expanded to include unique license numbers (Lew Sanborn is D-1), then continued with jump-number wings and freefall-hour badges, all of which a jumper held for life. Although USPA no longer numbers instructional ratings, it used to do so, and Jacques Istel received I-1. Seemingly forever, we’ve published the names of those who earned new credentials in Parachutist. For the past 20 years or so, we’ve also provided drop zone staff, Safety & Training Advisors, instructor examiners and board members with access to a credentials-only database for quick verification of current memberships, licenses and ratings. On request, we provide member credentials to Federal Aviation Administration officials who need to verify licenses and PRO ratings to approve exhibition jumps. And we list PRO-rating holders, Safety & Training Advisors, judges and examiners online so members can look up those who provide services that require those credentials.
For decades, USPA has occasionally sold postal mailing labels for one-time use, usually to DZs that want to mail notices about boogies and events and to gear suppliers that want to mail catalogs. Members have always been able to opt out of inclusion. USPA has never sold email addresses or phone numbers, and we never will.
Recently, USPA began to make changes to its data policies, due in large part to a law—the General Data Protection Rule—passed by the European Union in 2017. Effective last May, the law required organizations worldwide to take steps to safeguard the personal data of the citizens and residents of the 28 EU countries. Moreover, the law mandates that individuals have control over how, when and if organizations share their personal data. Violations can result in large fines. Personal data is defined as any data that can uniquely identify an individual … such as a membership or license number.
Why should USPA react to a European law? Setting aside that companies are already facing multi-million-dollar fines by the EU for violating the GDPR, the short answer is: It’s a good idea. In a growing tech world, people are increasingly vulnerable to data breaches that drain bank accounts, ruin credit scores or demand ransom for stolen digital property. All organizations should be taking steps for heightened data security and tightened data sharing.
Beginning January 1, USPA instituted changes to our member database—and your online member account—that let you know what your data-sharing options are and gives you control over where your data goes. Do you want your new USPA credentials or your U.S. Team donations listed in Parachutist? You can now set those options. Do you want to make sure you’re on the S&TA, PRO, judge or examiner lists? You can set those options, as well. (By the way, you can also select environmentally friendly options to forego paper membership cards, paper renewal notices and the print version of Parachutist, since there are now digital options for all of those.)
The GDPR does make provisions for data sharing for safety purposes. For that reason, USPA will still maintain an all-encompassing credential-only database (no personal data) for those in the field (DZOs, S&TAs, examiners and judges) who need to quickly verify if a member is current and if their licenses and ratings are valid. That database also indicates credential suspensions and revocations—also important for safety reasons.
So log on to uspa.org/me to view your membership profile and check out the new privacy and credentials tabs, then select where you want your credentials to appear.