Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: April 2018

In April the Information Commissioner’s Office published a number of enforcement measures taken against public and private organisations under both the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”).  The key points to draw from the enforcement action this month should be familiar to anyone who has been reading this series of blog posts since it began in September.

Key Points

  • It is important to keep track of personal data, especially when it is sensitive personal data; if it is to be sent out of the organisation ensure that it is properly secured and that a record of it being sent and received is kept.
  • Before sending out information to your customers it is important to consider whether the information you are sending is properly business information (or information you’re required to give by law), or whether it is actually promotional or marketing material. If it’s promotional or marketing material ensure that you only send it to the E-mail addresses of people who have consented to receive promotional or marketing material from you.
  • Make sure that before you conduct a marketing campaign by telephone that you do not include numbers listed with the TPS unless you have the consent of the subscriber to contact them by phone for the purposes of direct marketing.
  • When disclosing information to someone, whether under FOI laws or not, ensure that you do not accidently disclose personal or sensitive personal data of third parties where you do not have legal grounds to do so. Be especially careful with pivot tables, a number of public authorities shave found themselves in regulatory hot water of the use of pivot tables. The ICO produced a helpful blog post in 2013 on the issue of pivot tables.
  • If you are an employee it is important that you remember that you should only be accessing personal data where you have a proper business need to do so and should only be disclosing personal data where you need to do so in order to properly perform your role. You can be held personally liable and find yourself being prosecuted in the criminal courts.

Enforcement action published by the ICO in April 2018

Humberside Police
The Information Commissioner, exercising her powers under section 55A of the DPA, served a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £130,000 [pdf] for breaches of the DPA.  The force conducted an interview of a person alleging that they had been the victim of rape, on behalf of Cleveland Police. The interview was filmed and three copies of it existed: the master and two copies. The discs were unencrypted. They were to be sent to Cleveland Police, but were never received by Cleveland police. Humberside Police were unable to locate the discs or to confirm whether they had ever been posted to Cleveland Police.  The Commissioner found that Humberside Police had failed to comply with the seventh data protection principle and also paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 to the DPA.

Royal Mail Group Limited
The Information Commissioner served a Monetary Penalty Notice on Royal Mail Group Limited for contravening Regulation 22 of PECR.  The Monetary Penalty Notice was in the amount of £12,000 [pdf]. Royal Mail Group is the designated Universal Postal Service Provider in the UK and as such, it has certain statutory responsibilities to disseminate certain information. Royal Mail Group Limited sent E-mails to all of its customers, including those who had opted not to receive electronic marketing, to notify them of a change in price for second class parcels purchased online.  The price change was described as being a “promotional” one. The Commissioner found that this amounted to direct marketing rather than information that Royal Mail was obliged to provide under the Postal Services Act 2011 and was therefore in contravention of Regulation 22 of PECR.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
The Information Commissioner served a monetary penalty notice on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the amount of £130,000 [pdf] for breaches of the DPA. The breach arose out of a request for information made to the council pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The Council answered the request for information by providing a pivot table to the requesters. The council did not properly redact the underlying information which was then accessible to the requesters without too much difficulty; the underlying information included personal data.

The Energy Saving Centre Limited
The Information Commissioner has served the Energy Saving Centre Limited with a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £250,000 [pdf] and also with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] for contraventions of PECR.  The Commissioner had found that the Energy Saving Centre Limited had made tens of thousands of marketing calls to numbers which were listed with the Telephone Preference Service and where the individual subscribers to those numbers had not given consent to the Energy Saving Centre Limited to be contacted by phone for marketing purposes.  The Enforcement Notice requires the company to stop making unlawful calls – failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice is a criminal offence.

Approved Green Energy Solutions
The Information Commissioner has served a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] on an individual who traded as a sole trader under the name Approved Green Energy Solutions.  The amount of the penalty was £150,000. Approved Green Energy Solutions used a public telecommunications service to make in excess of 330,000 unsolicited telephone calls for the purpose of direct marketing where the line subscriber had listed their number with the Telephone Preference Service (“TPS”). The Commissioner and the TPS received 107 complaints directly from individuals affected.

A former receptionist/general assistant at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has bene prosecuted by the Information Commissioner after she inappropriately accessed the records of 12 patients when not required to do so in the course of her employment. The defendant entered a plea of guilty to offences of unlawfully accessing personal data and unlawfully disclosing personal data in breach of section 55 of the DPA. The Defendant was fined a total of £300 and ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge.

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice and assistance in connection with any of the data protection/privacy issues above, or any other Information Law matter, please do contact Alistair Sloan on 0141 229 0880 or by sending him an E-mail directly.  You can also follow our dedicated information law twitter account.