Tag Archives: Data Protection Act 1998

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: May 2018

May saw the long awaited General Data Protection Regulation coming into force, but it will be a while yet before we begin to see regulatory enforcement action taken under the GDPR and the associated Data Protection Act 2018 being taken. In May there was, as is normal, a steady stream of enforcement action against data controllers published by the Information Commissioner’s Office. It is once again time to take our monthly look at what breaches the Commissioner has taken enforcement action in relation to and what data controllers and their staff can learn from it.

Key Points

  • This is a frequent message of these monthly reviews, but it is important to ensure that you screen telephone numbers you are intending to call as part of a marketing campaign against the list maintained by the Telephone Preference Service. If you have, and can demonstrate that you have, consent to do so; you can call a number that is listed with the Telephone Preference Service.
  • When undertaking direct marketing by telephone you must identify the caller; if you are making the call on behalf of a third party then you must also identify the third party. It is not permissible to hide, obscure or refuse to provide the identity of the caller or their principal.
  • If you are obtaining personal data from a third party organisation for the purposes of direct marketing, you should ensure that you conduct your own due diligence checks to ensure that the appropriate consents are in fact in place.
  • When drafting privacy notices, when setting out to who you will be passing personal data onto for the purposes of direct marketing you need to be fairly specific. It is not sufficient to simply put “selected partners” or phrases that are similarly generic.
  • When sending personal data or sensitive personal data, even to other sites within your own company, it is important to ensure that you have in place adequate technical and organisational measures. Encrypting CDs and memory sticks is easy and cheap to do and therefore should be done whenever sending personal data outside the organisation on such media.
  • You should ensure that when updating the security of your websites and servers that you look at all aspects of your website and severs, including microsites and sub-domains, to ensure that you are taking appropriate precautions to secure the websites and servers.
  • When storing personal data offsite you should ensure that you take steps to keep that personal data safe and secure; off-site storage may not be visited as regularly by staff as your on-site storage and so this should be taken into consideration. When vacating a premises it is important to ensure that you systematically check the premises to ensure that all personal data has been removed from the site – you should be able to evidence your plan and that it was followed.
  • If you’re processing personal data within the European Union which concerns a data subject resident oustide of the European Union then you may be required to comply with a subject access request received from teh data subject.

Enforcement action published in May 2018

IAG Nationwide Limited
IAG Nationwide Limited was served with both an Enforcement Notice [pdf] and a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £100,000. [pdf] IAG Nationwide Limited is an advertising/marketing agency. IAG Nationwide Limited made telephone calls to numbers which were listed with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and continued to make such calls even after complaints had been raised with the TPS.  This was a contravention of Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR). IAG Nationwide Limited also failed to properly identify itself to those who it called which was a contravention of Regulation 24 of PECR. Indeed, when the Commissioner’s staff contacted the company by telephone they refused to provide its address and only provided an E-mail address which was unregistered and available for sale.

Costelloe and Kelly Limited
Costelloe and Kelly Limited were served a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £19,000 [pdf] after it undertook a direct marketing campaign by text message in a way that contravened Regulation 22 of PECR. The company instigated the transmission of approximately 283,500 test messages promoting products without having in place proper consent to do so. The company had relied upon a list supplied to it by a data provider which said that it had obtained consent for the purposes of direct marketing by text messages. Cotselloe and Kelly Limited conducted little or no due diligence itself to ensure appropriate consent. The consent obtained by its data provider was insufficient as it referred only to providing details to its “partners” and other generic descriptions when getting people to “opt-in”.

SCL Elections Limited
SCL Elections Limited was served with an Enforcement Notice requiring it to comply with a Subject Access Request made to it by a data subject [pdf]. SCL Elections Limited provided some information, for and on behalf of Cambridge Analytica. The data subject was not satisfied with the response and made a request for assessment to the Commissioner. In response, SCL Elections Limited asserted that the data subject had no right to make a subject access request nor a request for assessment to the commissioner as the data subject was a US rather than a UK citizen. The Commissioner disagreed and found that SCL Elections had not fully complied with its obligations.

Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was served with its second Monetary Penalty Notice for a failure to comply with the seventh data protection principle [pdf]. In November 2016 the CPS received from Surrey Police 15 unencrypted DVDs from Surrey Police. The DCDs contained interviews with alleged victims of child sexual abuse. The DVDs received by the CPS were copies; the originals being maintained by Surrey Police. The DVDs were sent by tracked DX delivery to another CPS office to be examined by specialists and were noted to have been delivered before 7 in the morning. The DVDs were likely to have been left in a reception area where individuals not employed by the CPS could have had access to the package. The CPS could not locate the packages. They therefore did not have in place adequate technical and organisational measures.

The University of Greenwich
The University of Greenwich was served a monetary penalty notice in the amount of £120,000 [pdf] after a breach of security resulted in the personal data of approximately 19,500 individuals being extracted by an authorised attacker. The personal data included sensitive personal data in relation to 3,500 individuals. The attacker posted the personal data on a third party website. The commissioner found that the university had failed to have in place adequate technical and organisational measures to ensure that, so far as was possible, the security breach which occurred did not happen and thus contravened the seventh data protection principle.

Bayswater Medical Centre
Bayswater Medical Centre was served a monetary penalty notice in the amount of £35,000 [pdf] after it left sensitive personal data in an empty premises. The practice had operated from two sites, but merged down to one retaining the second as a storage facility. Another GP practice sought to take over the lease and the Bayswater Medical Centre provided the second GP practice with a set of keys. On numerous occasions the second practice notified Bayswater medical Centre of the presence of the medical centres patient records which were unsecured. Bayswater Medical Centre did nothing to rectify the situation, including failing to remove the records from the premises when the new practice requested them to uplift the records. The Commissioner found that the Medical Centre had failed to comply with the requirements of the seventh data protection principle.

Prosecutions
A limited company and its director have been prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office for failing to comply with an Information Notice. The Information notices were issued in October 2017 and both failed to respond to the notices. The company was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge while the director was fined £325 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £32. The director was also ordered to pay £364.08 in prosecution costs.

A former recruitment consultant was successfully prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office after he illegally obtained personal data. The defendant set up his own recruitment consultancy and left his former employer’s employment. When he left the defendant took 272 CVs from his former employers’ database without consent. He admitted an offence of unlawfully obtaining personal data under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  He was fined £355 and ordered to pay £35 victim surcharge and £700 prosecution costs by Exeter Magistrate’s Court.

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.

 

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.

Prosecutions
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.

The Information Commissioner’s power to compel information

The Information Commissioner is presently undertaking an investigation into the possible unlawful use of personal data, in particular, data analytics, by political parties and political campaigning organisations.  The most high profile activity that the Commissioner has undertaken in respect of that investigation has to be the obtaining and execution of a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica.  As part of that investigation it has been reported that a number of persons and organisations involved in politics have been served with Information Notices by the Information Commissioner, including the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Leave.EU and Arron Banks.

An Information Notice is a formal investigative tool which the Information Commissioner can use in order to gather information.  Her power to issue such notices, in respect of the processing of personal data, is to be found in section 43 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  There are two circumstances in which the Commissioner can issue an Information Notice:  (1) when conducting an assessment pursuant to section 42 of the Data Protection Act 1998; and (2) where the Commissioner reasonably requires any information for the purpose of determining whether the data controller has complied or is complying with the data protection principles.  Broadly speaking this means that the Commissioner can issue an Information Notice either when her office is conducting an investigation at the request of a data subject or an investigation undertaken by her office which has been instigated by the Commissioner herself.

An Information Notice is simply a document which requires the data controller concerned to provide the Commissioner with information specified within the notice relating to the section 42 request or the controller’s compliance with the data protection principles.  However, its simplicity obscures its formality.  The issuing of an Information Notice is a formal step, and is a serious one for the recipient of the notice.  There is an automatic right of appeal against the notice or any part of the notice to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).  The right of appeal exists precisely because of its formality and the consequences for not complying with the notice.  It has been reported that UKIP has appealed the Information Notice served on it to the Tribunal.

An Information Notice is more than a polite request for information; it is a formal demand for information which is baked up by the threat of sanctions.  It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with an information notice which can result, if convicted, in a fine.  Furthermore, it is a criminal offence  to (i) make a statement in response to an information notice which is known to be false; or (ii) recklessly make a false statement in response to an information notice.

When serving an Information Notice, the Commissioner can specify or describe the information required by her or can be broader and instead specify or describe categories of information that she requires from the data controller.  There are some restrictions though on the information that the Commissioner can require a data controller to provide her with.  A data controller is not required to furnish the Commissioner with (a) “any communication between a professional legal adviser and his client in connection with the giving of legal advice to the client with respect to the person’s obligations, liabilities or rights under [the Data Protection Act 1998]”, or (b) “any communication between a professional legal adviser and his client, or between such an adviser or his client and any other person, made in connection with or in contemplation of proceedings under or arising out of [the Data Protection Act 1998] (including proceedings before the Tribunal) and for the purposes of such proceedings.”

A data controller can also refuse to provide information which would reveal evidence of the commission of any offence.  However, there are some exceptions to this general exception; if the offence is an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998 or offences under certain statutory provisions concerning the giving of false evidence, then the data controller may still be required to provide the Commissioner with that information.

The serving of an Information Notice on a data controller is a significant step by the Commissioner and it is one that data controllers should not take lightly.  The consequences for failing to comply with the notice or for deliberately or recklessly misleading the Commissioner through the provision of false information can see the data controller facing criminal charges.  The Notice can be challenged through the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) which could see part or all of the notice reduced/quashed.  The Data Protection Bill contains provisions in relation to Information Notices which are for the most part identical to the powers found within the Data Protection Act 1998 and so the Commissioner will continue to possess this potentially powerful took once the GDPR becomes a reality next month (subject, of course, to the Data Protection Bill completing is passage through parliament and receiving Royal Assent in time).

Alistair Sloan

If you are facing an investigation by the Information Commissioner in respect of alleged failures to comply with privacy and data protection law, or if you require advice on any other information law matter you can contact Alistair Sloan on 0141 229 0880.  Alternatively you can contact him directly by E-mail.  We also have a dedicated information law twitter account which you can follow.

The Information Commissioner’s Powers of Entry and Inspection

Yesterday I wrote a blog post looking at data subject’s rights and lessons for controllers arising out of the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook privacy matter.  In that blog post I mentioned briefly about the Information Commissioner’s powers of entry and search after the Commissioner announced that she was seeking a warrant to enter and search Cambridge Analytica’s premises.   In this blog post I will look at the Commissioner’s powers of entry and search in a bit more detail.

As noted yesterday, the Commissioner’s powers of entry and search are contained in Schedule 9 to the Data Protection Act 1998.  Schedule 9 sets out the circumstances in which a judge can grant a warrant to the Information Commissioner.  The judge considering the application must be satisfied, based on statements made on oath, that the there are reasonable grounds of suspecting that (a) a data controller has contravened or is contravening any of the data protection principles, or (b) that an offence under the Data Protection Act has been or is being committed, and that evidence of the contravention or of the commission of the offence is to be found on any premises specified in the information supplied by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner is generally required, by the terms of Schedule 9 to the Data Protection Act 1998, to jump through some hoops before the judge considering the warrant application can grant the warrant to the Commissioner.  Paragraph 2 of Schedule 9 requires that the judge considering the application be satisfied of a number of other things:

  1. that the Commissioner has given seven days’ notice in writing to the occupier of the premises in question demanding access to the premises, and
  2. that either (i) access was demanded at a reasonable hour and was unreasonably refused, or (ii) although entry to the premises was granted, the occupier unreasonably refused to comply with a request by the Commissioner or any of the Commissioner’s officers or staff to permit the Commissioner or the officer or member of staff to do any of the things she would be entitled to do if she had a warrant (see below); and
  3. that the occupier, has, after the refusal, been notified by the Commissioner of the application for the warrant and has had an opportunity of being heard by the judge on the question whether or not it should be issued.

Where the judge is satisfied that the case is one of urgency or that compliance with those provisions would defeat the object of the entry, the judge does not need to be satisfied of the three things listed above.  In this case, given that the Commissioner announced her intention to apply for a warrant on national television, it is likely that a judge will require to be satisfied of the three conditions listed above.

Who considers an application by the Commissioner for a warrant depends upon the jurisdiction in which the warrant is being applied for.  In England and Wales a District Judge (Magistrates’ Court) or a Circuit Judge has the power to grant the warrant; in Scotland it is the Sheriff and in Northern Ireland it is a Country Court Judge.

A warrant granted under Schedule 9 of the Data Protection Act 1998 gives the Commissioner the power to do a number of things; these things can be found in paragraph 1(3) of the Schedule and are:

  1. to enter the premises
  2. to search the premises
  3. to inspect, examine, operate and test any equipment found on the premises which is used or intended to be used for the processing of personal data;
  4. to inspect and seize any relevant documents or other material found on the premises;
  5. to require any person on the premises to provide an explanation of any document or other material found on the premises;
  6. to require any person on the premises to provide such other information as may reasonably be required for the purpose of determining whether the data controller has contravened, or is contravening, the data protection principles.

The warrant must be executed at a reasonable hour, unless it appears to the person executing it that there are grounds for suspecting that the object of the warrant would be defeated if it were so executed, and within 7 days of the date of issue.  It allows the Commissioner, her officers and staff to use reasonable force to execute the warrant.

There are lots of other, really boring and technical requirements, which I won’t go into; the last thing I will mention is the terms of paragraph 12 of Schedule 9 which makes it an offence to: (i) intentionally obstruct a person in the execution of a warrant issued under Schedule 9; (ii) fail, without reasonable excuse, to give any person executing such a warrant such assistance as he may reasonably require for the execution of the warrant; (iii) makes a statement in response to a requirement  to provide information (see 5 and 6 in the list of powers the warrant gives the Commissioner) which that person knows to be false in a material respect; and (iv) recklessly makes a statement in response to such a requirement which is false in a material respect.

The Commissioner does get warrants from time to time; for example, earlier this month the ICO executed search warrants in relation to two properties in Greater Manchester as part of an investigation into companies suspected of sending text messages in contravention of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR).  The provisions of Schedule 9 to the Data Protection Act 1998 apply to PECR by virtue of Regulation 31 of PECR.

Alistair Sloan

If you are a data controller or an individual who is looking for advice and assistance with any aspect of data protection or privacy law, then you can contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or 0141 229 0880.  Alternatively, you can send him an E-mail.

Data Protection and Privacy Enforcement: February 2018

February is a short month, and did not see the same level of publicity by the Information Commissioner’s Office in respect of enforcement action taken to enforce privacy and data protection laws as was seen in January.

Key points 

  • Failing to comply with an Enforcement Notice is a criminal offence (see section 47 of the Data Protection Act 1998); there is a right of appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) against the terms of an Enforcement Notice and so if you do not agree with the terms of the notice you should seek legal advice about the possibility of making such an appeal.
  • Employees should be careful what they do with personal data; in most cases the enforcement liability will lie with the employer (although, your employer might take disciplinary action against you for failing to comply with company policies and procedures).  However, there are circumstances when employees can be held personally, and indeed criminally, liable for breaches of the Data Protection act 1998.
  • The right of subject access is a fundamental right of data subjects and data controllers must ensure that they comply with their obligations in respect of a subject access request made by a data subject.  The right of subject access remains a key feature of the new European data protection framework and the GDPR strengthens the right of subject access for data subjects.

Enforcement action published by the ICO during February 2018

Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust
The ICO has conducted a follow-up assessment [pdf] with Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust finding that the Trust had complied with the terms of the undertaking which it had previously given [pdf] following a consensual audit [pdf] by the Commissioner’s staff.

Gain Credit LLC
Gain Credit LLC was served with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] by the Information Commissioner for failing to comply with a subject access request made to it.  This came to light after the data subject in question made a request to the Information Commissioner that she carry out an assessment pursuant to section 42 of the Data Protection Act 1998 into whether it was likely or unlikely that the processing by Gain Credit LLC was in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Direct Choice Home Improvements Limited
In March 2016 Direct Choice Home Improvements Limited was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £50,000 [pdf] and also an Enforcement Notice [pdf] for breaching Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC) Directive Regulations 2003 (PECR).  The company continued to breach Regulation 21 of PECR and the Commissioner prosecuted it for breaching the Enforcement Notice.  The company was not represented at Swansea Magistrates’ Court and was convicted in absence.  The company was fined £400 as well as being ordered to pay £364.08 in prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £40. (Don’t forget that PECR remains part of the privacy and data protection law landscape when the GDPR becomes applicable in May.)

Other Prosecutions
A former employee of Nationwide Accident Repair Services Limited was prosecuted by the Information Commissioner for unlawfully obtaining personal data contrary to section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The defendant had sold the personal data of his employers’ customers to a third party who then made use of the personal data to contact some of those customers concerning their accident.  The defendant was convicted and fined £500 as well as being ordered to pay costs of £364 and a victim surcharge of £50.  An offence of unlawfully disclosing personal data was admitted to and taken into consideration by the Court.

A former local authority education worker was prosecuted after she unlawfully disclosed personal data contrary to section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The defendant had taken a screenshot of a council spreadsheet which concerned the eligibility of named children to free school meals and then sent it onto an estranged parent of one of the children.  She pled guilty to three offences and was fined £850 by Westminster Magistrates’ Court as well as being ordered to pay £713 in costs.

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice or assistance in respect of a data protection or privacy law matter, or any other Information Law matter; then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123, or send him and E-mail.

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: January 2018

It has been a busy start to the year for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  The start of 2018 also saw the highest ever sentences imposed on those in breach of Data Protection and Privacy laws in the United Kingdom.  It is time to have a closer look at the Data Protection and Privacy Enforcement action published by the ICO during January 2018 as part of our regular monthly review.  You can read our review of the privacy and data protection enfrocement from December 2017 here.

Key Points

  • If you have access to personal data as part of your employment, ensure that you only access it where there is a genuine professional need for you to do so; even if the reason you are looking for information could be considered harmless.
  • As far as the Information Commissioner is concerned, ‘ignorance is not bliss’; Data Controllers must have adequate and up to date procedures, technology and policies in place to ensure that they are not in breach of any data protection laws or regulations.
  • Organisations can’t generally send advertising or marketing emails unless the recipient has informed the sender that they consent to such emails being sent by, or at the instigation of, that sender.  Any consent must be freely given, explicit and informed but also involve a positive indication signifying the individual’s agreement. In order for consent to be informed by an individual, the individual must know exactly what it is they are consenting to (for more information see Alistair Sloan’s blog post PECR:  The forgotten relative).
  • Failure to notify the Information Commissioner of any personal data breach in accordance with the Notification Regulations will not be tolerated.  If it has come to your attention that there has been a breach, you must come clean and put your hands up. A much wider requirement to notify the ICO of personal data breaches becomes applicable with the GDPR later this year, for more on that see our blog post on Personal Data Breaches under the GDPR.
  • It goes without saying, meticulous attention to detail must be taken when you are sending any correspondence containing personal data, you must ensure that it is sent to the correct person.

Enforcement action published by the ICO in January 2018

The Carphone Warehouse Ltd
The Carphone Warehouse Ltd was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice in the sum of £400,000 after serious failures and inadequate software placed customer and employee data at risk.

Newday Limited
Newday Ltd were served a Monetary Penalty Notice in the sum of £230,000 after approximately 48,096,988 emails were sent to individuals who had not consented to receive marketing, contrary to regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.  The Commissioner decided that the consent relied on by Newday Limited was not sufficiently informed and therefore it did not amount to valid consent.

TFLI Ltd
TFLI Ltd received a Monetary Penalty Notice of £80,000.  This penalty was also in relation to contravention of regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.  TFLI Limited sent approximately 1,218,436 unsolicited marketing texts promoting a loan website.

Barrington Claims Ltd
Barrington Claims Ltd were issued a Monetary Penalty Notice in the sum £250,000 after they failed to ensure automated marketing calls were made only to individuals who had consented to receive them. The Commissioner decided to issue a Monetary Penalty under section 55A of the Data Protection Act 1998, in relation to contravention of regulations 19 and 24 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.  The company were unable to provide evidence that it had the consent of individuals to whom it had instigated the calls.

Goody Market UK Ltd
Goody Market UK Ltd were issued a Monetary Penalty Notice in the sum of £40,000 after they failed to ensure that text messages containing marketing material were only sent to individuals who had consented to receive them.  They were also served an Enforcement Notice. The texts were sent on the basis of data sourced from a third party, and purchased on behalf of Goody Market UK Ltd by a data broker.  Goody Market UK Ltd were unable to provide the Commissioner with any evidence that the recipients consented to the marketing messages, having relied on verbal assurance from the data broker.  The Commissioner found that Goody Market UK Ltd had contravened Regulation 22 of PECR.

West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police have signed an Undertaking to comply with the Data Protection Act after the Information Commissioner was informed that a data breach had occurred in relation a Criminal Behaviour Order.  The order was imposed on two individuals, but in a leaflet distributed to publicise the order, the names of the witnesses were revealed.

Miss-sold Products UK Ltd
Miss-sold Products UK Ltd were served a Monetary Penalty Notice in the sum of £350,000 after they failed to ensure that marketing calls were only made to individuals who had consented to receive marketing. The penalty was in relation to contravention of Regulation 19 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

SSE Energy Supply Ltd
SSE Energy Supply Ltd was issued a Monetary Penalty Notice of £1,000 after they sent an email to an individual in error.   The penalty was issued because of contravention of Regulation 5A of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.  This Regulation requires that a provider of a public electronic communications service must notify the Information Commissioner of a personal data breach without undue delay.  SSE Energy Supply Ltd sent an email to the wrong email address, disclosing the name of a customer and their account number.  After they became aware of the breach, SSE Energy Supply Limited did not follow its policies and procedures that were in place and as a consequence there was a delay in reporting the personal data breach to the Information Commissioner.

Prosecutions
There were a number of successful prosecutions reported by the ICO during January 2018:

  1. An investigation by the ICO, which began in 2013, resulted in record fines for Woodgate and Clark Ltd, the company director and private investigators who were involved in the illegal trade of personal information.  A claim had been made on an insurance policy in relation to a fire at business premises which the claimant owned.  Private investigators unlawfully obtained confidential financial information and disclosed it to Woodgate and Clark Ltd, which then disclosed it to an insurer client.  The defendants were all prosecuted under s55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  Woodgate and Clark Ltd were fined £50,000 in addition to being ordered to pay £20,000 in costs.  The company director was fined £75,000 and was ordered to pay £20,000 in costs; while both private investigators were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,500 in costs.
  2. A director of an accident claims company invented a car crash so that he could trace and get in touch with the owner of a private number plate he wanted to buy.  He was prosecuted at Bristol Magistrates’ Court for a breach of S55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the offence of unlawfully obtaining personal data.  He was convicted and received a fine of £335.00.  The defendant was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £364.08 and a victim surcharge of £33.00.
  3. An individual was charged with two offences of unlawfully disclosing personal data.  The defendant had come into possession of a USB stick and published sensitive police information from it on Twitter.  He was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharg,e in part because he had been placed on a stringent bail conditions including wearing an electronic tag before the hearing.  He had to pay £150 in cost and £15 victim charge.

Vicki Macleod Folan

If you require advice and assistance in connection with any of the issues above, or any other Information Law matter, please do contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or by completing the form on the contact page of this blog.  Alternatively, you can send him an E-mail directly.

PECR: The forgotten relative

Much of the focus in relation to data protection and privacy law is on implementation of the Genera Data Protection Regulation, which becomes applicable from 25 May 2018.  However, many of the discussions that are taking place in respect of GDPR implementation are forgetting the GDPR’s older cousin:  the snappily named Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications).  This Directive from the European Union dating from 2002 was implemented in the United Kingdom through the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”).

 The Directive on privacy and electronic communications is concerned with the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector and is of importance to telecommunications providers, Internet Service Providers and any person or organisation who conducts direct marketing by electronic means; however, this blog post is concerned only with direct marketing and is a follow-up to my recent blog post on whether consent is required under the GDPR.

The GDPR might be the big thing at the moment, but it is important not to consider it in isolation.  When thinking about GDPR implementation it is necessary to take a holistic view and think about how it interacts with other laws because these other laws don’t stop having effect just because of the GDPR.  Therefore, it is essential to consider how these other laws affect your GDPR implementation.

The rules on direct marketing by electronic means are relatively simple and straightforward, but this does not stop unlawful behaviour from taking place on an industrial scale.  Rarely does a month go past without the Information Commissioner’s Office publishing information on enforcement action it has taken against businesses arising out of failing to comply with PECR, especially since the law changed to lower the legal threshold for Monetary Penalty Notices in relation to PECR infringements.

Electronic Mail
Electronic Mail includes E-mail and SMS text messaging.  The general rule for direct marketing by electronic mail is that you need consent, as defined by the 1995 Data Protection Directive.  This means that you must have a freely given, specific and informed indication that the person to whom you are directing the marketing wants to receive such marketing.

There is an exception to this which is referred to as the “soft opt-in”.  This applies where you have obtained a person’s personal data “in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service” to them.  You can then send direct marketing to this person, without first gaining their express consent, where you are marketing your own similar products or services.  The data subject must be “given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected”.

Each direct marketing communication that is sent must include a simple means of opt-out of further direct marketing content (and this must be free of charge, except for the costs of transmission of the opt-out).

Telephone:  Automated calls
The rules for direct marketing by telephone are split into automated and unsolicited live telesales calls.  In the case of automated calls with recorded information played when the phone line being called is answered, the subscriber (i.e. the person who has contracted with the telephone service provider) must have notified the caller (or the person instigating the call where the caller is a third party acting on behalf of the instigator) that, for the time being, they consent to receiving such calls.  Again, this requires there to be a freely given, specific and informed indication.  Consent can be withdrawn.

Telephone:  Unsolicited live telesales calls
You do not require consent to make such calls; however, you must not make such calls where the subscriber has notified you that they do not wish to receive such calls, or if the number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).  You can call numbers registered with the TPS where the subscriber has consented to receiving calls from you, notwithstanding that the number is registered with the TPS.  Consent can, as always, be withdrawn at a later date.

Fax
Yes, it is still a thing and some people (and indeed whole sectors) still use fax machines.  However, as it is more or less an obsolete technology all I will say on the matter is that PECR regulates the use of fax for direct marketing and the relevant parts are Regulations 20 and 25.

That is a very brief run through of the relevant law as it stands today.  However, a couple of points to note in closing:  Firstly, the EU is currently working on a replacement to the current Directive.  It had been anticipated that the new E-Privacy Regulation would be implemented alongside the GDPR, but work started on it too late and so it won’t.  Whether it will be finalised in and in force prior to Brexit is something that we will need to wait and see.  Secondly, depending on what happens with the Brexit negotiations it may still end up being part of UK law even if it comes into force after the UK leaves the EU.  Thirdly, there is likely to be some temporary adjustments to PECR from 25 May 2018, that is because PECR adopts a lot of definitions from the Data Protection Act 1998 and the 1995 Data Protection Directive (both of which will be repealed on 25 May 2018).  Finally, the domestic Regulations were made under the European Communities Act 1972; therefore the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill may well have some impact upon them.

Alistair Sloan

If you would like advice or assistance with a privacy or data protection matter, or any other information law concern then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or send him an E-mail.

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: December 2017

Our monthly look at the enforcement action taking by the Information Commissioner in respect of Privacy and Data Protection matters continues with a review of the enforcement action published by the ICO in December 2017.  You can view last month’s review of the November 2017 enforcement action here.  December 2017 was not an overly busy month for the ICO; they published just one Enforcement Notice.

Key Points

  • Ensure that you have in place adequate procedures to ensure that you handle Subject Access requests within the time allowed by the law.

Enforcement Action

Secretary of State for Justice
The Secretary of State for Justice was served with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] requiring him to deal with his department’s backlog of delayed Subject Access Requests.  As at 10 November 2017 the Ministry of Justice had 793 Subject Access Requests which were over 40 days old; some of this backlog was made up of Subject Access Requests made in 2014.  This was a reduction from the 919 requests more than 40 days old as at 28 July 2017 (which included requests going back to 2012).  The Data Protection Act 1998 requires that Subject Access Requests be responded to within 40 calendar days (this will be reduced to 30 calendar days under the GDPR – you can find out more about this change, and others to the right of subject access requests, in my blog post on Subject Access Requests under the GDPR).

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice or assistance with Subject Access Requests, or any other Information Law matter then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123 or send him and E-mail

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: November 2017

A bit later than normal, it is time for our monthly review of the enforcement action taken by the Information Commissioner in respect of Privacy and Data Protection matters during the month of November 2017.  This follows on from our reviews covering September 2017 and October 2017.

Key Points

  • Ensure that when you are collecting personal data that you are clear and open about what it will be used for.  If it is to be supplied to third parties for direct marketing purposes state as accurately as possible who those third parties are –  stating that it will be shared with “carefully selected partners” is not going to be sufficient.
  • When undertaking direct marketing by electronic means, such as by E-mail or text message, ensure that you have in place the necessary consent (and remember the definition of consent in the Data Protection Directive) of the recipient before sending your marketing messages.
  • Once again, if you have access to personal data as part of your employment, ensure that you only access it where there is a legitimate business need for you to do so.  Do not send personal data to your own personal E-mail address without first explaining to your employer why you need to do it and getting their consent to do so.

Enforcement action published by the ICO in November 2017

Verso Group (UK) Limited

Verso Group (UK) Limited was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £80,000.  Verso had been supplying personal data to third parties to enable those third parties to conduct direct marketing campaigns; the Commissioner considered that Verso had breached the First Data Protection Principle in doing so.  This was because the Commissioner did not consider that the terms and conditions and privacy policies of Verso and those other companies from which it obtained personal data were clear enough to make the processing by Verso fair and lawful.

Hamilton Digital Solutions Limited

Hamilton Digital Solutions Limited were served with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] and a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £45,000 after the company were responsible for the sending of in excess of 150,000 text messages for the purposes of direct marketing in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Prosecutions

There were a number of successful prosecutions reported by the ICO during the month of November 2017:

Prosecution 1 –
A former employee of a community based counselling charity was prosecuted by the ICO at Preston Crown Court and pleaded guilty to three charges under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The Defendant had sent a number of E-mails to his personal E-mail address which contained sensitive personal data of clients, without his employers’ consent.  He was given a 2 year Conditional Discharge, ordered to pay costs of £1,845.25 and a £15 Victim Surcharge.

Prosecution 2 –
An employee of Dudley Group NHS Trust pleaded guilty two offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998:  one of unlawfully obtaining personal data and one of unlawfully disclosing personal data.  The defendant had accessed the medical records of a neighbour and former friend medical records and also disclosed information about a baby.  She was fined a total of £250 (£125 for each offence) and was ordered to pay prosecution costs amounting to £500 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Prosecution 3 –
A former nursing auxiliary at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport was fined £232 for offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  She was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £150 and a victim surcharge of £30.  The Defendant had unlawfully accessed the records of a patient who was also her neighbour

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice and assistance in connection with any of the issues above, or any other Information Law matter, please do contact Alistair on 0345 450 0123 or by completing the form on the contact page of this blog.  Alternatively, you can send him an E-mail directly.

Nefarious Endeavours and Vicarious Liability for Data Breaches

Last week I highlighted the important decision handed down by Mr Justice Langstaff sitting in the English High Court in the case of Various Claimants v WM Morrisons Supermarket PLC  [2017] EWHC 3113 (QB).  In that blog post I stated that the judgment was lengthy and would take some time to properly read and digest and that I would cover the judgment in much more detail in due course.  It has indeed taken some time to read and digest, but I am now in a position to bring readers a much more in-depth consideration of the judgment.

The facts sitting behind the Morrisons decision are stark.  An employee of the Defendants, Andrew Skelton, ran a business on the side.  His business was connected to the slimming industry and involved him sending a perfectly legal drug, which was in the form of a white powder.  On 20th May 2013, Mr Skelton left a pre-paid package with Morrisons’ mail room which contained this white powder.  While the package was being handled by staff in the mail room it burst open and some of the contents spilled out.  This triggered a process within Morrisons that could have resulted in the mail room being closed; however, that was not necessary.

Mr Skelton was eventually disciplined by Morrisons in connection with this incident.  He had committed no criminal offences in connection with the incident:  the drug was perfectly legal and he had paid for the postage himself.  However, Morrisons decided that his conduct was not in keeping with their values and issued him with a verbal warning.  Mr. Skelton disagreed with this sanction and utilised the company’s internal appeals process to appeal the disciplinary decision; that appeal was unsuccessful.  Mr Skelton took exception to the way in which we was treated and began to embark upon a criminal enterprise which was designed to damage the Defendants.

Mr Skelton was employed as an IT internal auditor within Morrisons.  This meant that he was highly literate in IT and also meant that he had access to personal data.  It is not necessary to go into the facts in much more detail.  It is suffice to say that in the course of his employment with Morrsions, Mr. Skelton lawfully processed personal data which had been extracted from the company’s payroll software.

As part of his nefarious endeavour, Mr. Skelton made a personal copy of the personal data and proceeded to post it onto the internet in January 2014.  By this time, Mr. Skelton had left Morrisons (having resigned).  By March 2014, the fact that vast quantities of personal data from Morrisons’ payroll software had been posted onto the internet had not been discovered.  Mr. Skelton then, anonymously, sent a CD of the personal data to a number of local newspapers including a link to where the personal data had been posted.  One of the local newspapers altered Morrisons to the publication of the personal data and Morrisons took steps to have it removed and to investigate matters.

Ultimately, Mr. Skelton was arrested and charged with various offences under both the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Fraud Act 2006.  He was later convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment.  With that context now set out, it is time to turn to the civil claim brought by over 5,000 of the affected data subjects against Morrisons.

The claimants effectively argued two primary positions:  (1) that Morrisons was directly liable for the breach arising out of its own acts and omissions; and (2) alternatively, that Morrisons was vicariously liable in respect of Mr. Skelton’s actions.

In advancing the case for primary liability, Counsel for the Claimants argued that Morrisons was at all material times the data controller of the payroll data which Mr. Skelton had misused for his criminal enterprise.  This argument was repelled by Langstaff J.  Mr Justice Langstaff concluded that by taking it upon himself to decide that he was going to copy the personal data and place it on the internet, Mr. Skelton had put himself into the position of deciding what personal data would be processed and the purposes for which it would be processed.  Mr. Skelton was therefore the data controller, not Morrisons.  It was therefore Mr. Skelton’s actions that were in breach of the Data Protection Principles rather than the actions of Morrisons.

The rejection of the primary liability then brought Mr Justice Langstaff onto the question of secondary liability.  Could Morrisons be held as being vicariously liable for the actions of Mr. Skelton, and if so, were they vicariously liable for the actions of Mr. Skelton?  Mr Justice Langstaff decided that Morrisons could, and indeed were, vicariously liable for the actions of Mr. Skelton in publically disclosing the Claimants’ personal data on the internet.  In reaching this conclusion, Mr Justice Langstaff has seemingly reached two contradictory conclusions:  that Mr. Skelton was acting independently of Morrisons (thus making him a data controller in his own right) while at the same time holding that Mr. Skelton was acting in the course of his employment (thus opening the door for viacarious liability to attach to Morrisons).  These are not necessarily easy to reconcile and as a consequence it may well end up in the Court of Appeal (or indeed, possibly even the Supreme Court) in due course.  Morrisons have, as I previously noted, been granted permission to appeal the vicarious liability finding to the Court of Appeal by Langstaff J.

The Defendants essentially attacked the vicarious liability position using a three pronged approach.  First, they argued, that the statutory scheme of the Data Protection Act 1998 excluded the possibility of there being vicarious liability at common law.  Their second prong was very much based upon the premise of their first:  they argued that if the statute impliedly excluded vicarious liability, it would not be constitutionally possible for the courts to impute such liability into the scheme.  The third prong of their attack was based on Mr. Skelton acting as his own independent data controller.  If he was so acting, the Defendants argued; then he could not also be acting in the course of his employment such as to make Morrisons vicariously liable for his actions.

Langstaff J, in holding that Morrisons were vicariously liable, looked closely at the timeline of events which had occurred.  Mr Justice Langstaff took the view that “what happened was a seamless and continuous sequence of events” [para 183].  The actions of Mr. Skelton as an independent data controller were sufficiently linked to his employment at Morrisons so as to have the result of Morrisons being vicariously liable for his actions as an independent data controller.

It is clear from paragraph 196 of the judgment that Langstaff J was troubled by the conclusions that he had reached.  One point was singled out for particular attention as the one which “most troubled” him; that was that by finding Morrisons as being vicariously liable he had in effect assisted Mr. Skelton in his criminal endeavours.  The ultimate aim of Mr. Skelton’s nefarious activities was to cause harm to Morrisons; a finding of vicarious liability for the distress caused by the data subjects opens up the possibility that each and every single one of those affected will seek compensation from Morrisons.  Even if the payments to each data subject are low; if they end up having to be made to the approximately 10,000 employees who were affected the financial burden to Morrisons is not going to be insignificant.  That will represent a harm caused to Morrisons; perhaps harm that was not envisaged by Mr. Skelton when he started upon his nefarious activities; however, it is a harm that will be suffered by Morrisons arising.   The ultimate aim of Mr. Skelton’s nefarious activities was to cause harm to Morrisons; a finding of vicarious liability for the distress caused by the data subjects opens up the possibility that each and every single one of those affected will seek compensation from Morrisons.  Even if the payments to each data subject are low; if they end up having to be made to the approximately 10,000 employees who were affected the financial burdern to Morrisons is not going to be insignificant.

It remains to be seen whether Morrisons will appeal the judgement; they already have permission to take the matter to the Court of Appeal.  Of course, the judgment of Lansgatff J is not binding upon any court in Scotland; however, it will likely be considered as persuasive authority in both the Sheriff Court and the Court of Session.  Data Controllers in Scotland should pay as much attention to the case as those based in England and Wales.

Alistair Sloan

If you would like to discuss an issue related to data protection, or any other information law matter, then contact Alistair Sloan on 0345 450 0123.  Alternatively, you can send him an E-mail.