Tag Archives: Direct Marketing

It’s just legitimite interests, isn’t it?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes applicable in the United Kingdom on 25th May 2018.  Preparations are well underway in business, government and the regulator for the new privacy and data protection landscape.  People are trying to find their way through the GDPR and the Data Protection Bill to understand exactly what it is that they’re required to do in order to comply with the new framework, but there are a lot of misunderstandings about certain requirements of the GDPR.  I have already dealt with one of those, the issue as to whether or not consent is required under the GDPR on this blog.  Another area where there appears to a lot of misunderstanding is with the legitimate interests ground for processing, especially in the area of direct marketing.

Article 6(1)(f) of the GDPR provides that it is lawful to process the personal data of a data subject where the “processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.”  This is the legitimate interests ground for processing; but as can be seen from a proper reading of the condition, it is not the silver bullet condition that some people seem to think that it is.

There are essentially three elements to the condition:  (1) necessity; (2) legitimate interests of the controller or a third party; (3) the interests or fundamental rights of the data subject.  Therefore before being able to rely upon legitimate interests as the processing condition, it is essential that controllers go through a three stage process.  The first stage is to identify what the interests are.  In determining whether the interest identified by the data controller is a legitimate interest, it is necessary for them to consider whether a data subject can reasonably expect, at the time and in the context of the collection of the personal data, that processing for this purpose may take place.  If a data subject could not reasonably expect that the processing envisaged by the data controller may take place, at the time and in the context of collection of the personal data, it will not be a legitimate interest.

The second stage is to consider necessity; the processing must be necessary for the legitimate interest(s) being pursued.  If the processing is not necessary then a data controller cannot rely upon the ‘legitimate interests’ condition for processing the personal data in question.  The ICO currently puts it this way “[i]f you can reasonably achieve the same result in another less intrusive way, legitimate interests will not apply.”  It is therefore essential to consider whether there are other ways to fulfil the legitimate interest(s) identified.  The test does not require it to be “strictly necessary” or “absolutely necessary”, but it is still a high test

The final element that needs to be considered before a decision to rely upon legitimate interests can be taken, is whether the legitimate interests are overridden by the fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject.  This can be a very difficult assessment to make and can, on occasions, be on a knife-edge.  It is fundamentally about proportionality and in a lot of cases the data subject’s fundamental rights and freedoms will override the legitimate interests with the result that another condition needs to be found to enable processing take place.

At the very outset I did mention that there is a lot of misunderstanding about legitimate interests in the field of direct marketing.  It is true that the GDPR does state, in Recital 47, that “[t]he processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest”, but it’s not as simple as that.  Firstly it is important to note that the Recital states that it “may be” a legitimate interest; that is not the same thing as saying that it “will be” or “is” a legitimate interest.  It only opens the door to marketing being a legitimate interest; it does not remove the need to consider whether it is, in any given context, a legitimate interest.

Secondly, it is important not to consider the GDPR in isolation.  I have already written about the forgotten relative of the GDPR:  The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.  These are extremely relevant when conducting direct marketing by electronic means (such a by telephone, E-mail or text message).  Processing personal data for the purposes of marketing might well be lawful because it can be shown that it is a legitimate interest for the controller or a third party, but how that marketing is then delivered must comply with the other relevant laws and codes which regulate marketing activity.

The legitimate interests condition is a flexible one, but data controllers should not assume that if no other condition applies, or is appropriate, that they can simply say “it’s legitimate interests” and be done with it.  Where a controller does rely upon legitimate interests, the accountability principle will kick in and the supervisory authority may well ask for it to be justified.  Therefore, where it is proposed to rely upon legitimate interests a record should be kept demonstrating how each of three elements to the legitimate interests condition is met.

Alistair Sloan

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

 

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: 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.

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: October 2017

Continuing the regular monthly look at Data Protection and Privacy enforcement taken by the Information Commissioner, this blog post reviews the enforcement action published during October 2017.

Key Points

  • When seeking consent for the purposes of direct marketing, be clear and precise in the language that you use.
  • When buying-in lists of contact details for the purpose of Direct Marketing you are responsible for ensuring that the there is valid consent in place so carry out your own due-diligence.
  • You are responsible for the direct marketing calls made by your agent as you are the instigator of the calls
  • If you have access to personal data as part of your job, do not access it unless you have a valid reason to do so in connection with your employment.

Enforcement Action published by ICO in October 2017

Xerpla Limited

Xerpla Limited was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £50,000 after the Information Commissioner found that they had sent more than 1 million unsolicited direct marketing communications by electronic mail.  The Information Commissioner considered that Xerpla was not clear or specific enough about who subscribers were agreeing to receive marketing from.

Vanquis Bank Limited

Vanquis Bank Limited were served with an Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £75,00 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Information Commissioner found that they had sent text messages and E-mails marketing credit cards without consent.

The Lead Experts Limited

The Lead Experts Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £70,000 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Information Commissioner found that they had instigated automated marketing calls to telephone subscribers without the subscriber’s consent.

Prosecutions

A former employee of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust was fined £300, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £364.08 and a victim surcharge of £30 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998.  The defendant had accessed the health records of a single patient 279 times over a three-week period in October and November 2015, viewing the files up to 50 times in a day.  The patient was known to the defendant, but she had no valid lawful reason to access the records and did so without her employer’s consent.

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 me an E-mail directly.

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement: September 2017

Following on from last month’s post looking at the Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement taken in August 2017, it is now time to review what data protection/privacy enforcement the ICO publicised during September 2017.

Key Points

The key points from the enforcement action publicised by the ICO during the course of September are:

  • Ensure that where your organisation undertakes direct marketing by telephone, you do not make calls to numbers which are listed on the Telephone Preference Service; unless you have been given consent to make such calls.
  • Before you engage in a marketing campaign by making automated telephone calls, ensure that you have consent from the subscribers to the numbers that you intend to call, whether the numbers are registered with the telephone Preference Service or not.
  • Generally you require the consent of the recipient before you can send marketing materials by electronic means (including text messages and E-mail).
  • It is important that all employees (including agency and temporary staff) have an adequate level of data protection training for their job role and that there is in place ongoing refresher training on a regular basis.
  • If you are an employee and have access to personal data as part of your job role, do not make use of that access for any purposes not required as part of your employment; including for personal purposes.  Also, don’t forward personal data to your personal E-mail, for any reason, unless your employer has agreed to it first.

Enforcement Action published by ICO in August 2017

True Telecom Limited

True Telecom Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £85,000 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Commissioner had found that True Telecom was responsible for 201 unsolicited telephone calls for the purposes of direct marketing made to numbers registered with the Telephone Preference Service, contrary to the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Cab Guru Limited

Cab Guru Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £45,000 after the Commissioner found that it had instigated the transmission of more than 350,000 text messages for the purposes of direct marketing without having the consent of the intended recipient to do so, contrary to the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Your Money Rights Limited

Your Money Rights Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £350,000 after the Commissioner found that it had instigated more than 146,000,000 automated marketing calls without having the consent of the subscribers to the number(s), contrary to the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Easy Leads Limited

Easy Leads Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £208,000 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Commissioner found that the company had instigated more than 16,500,000 automated marketing telephone calls without having the consent of the subscribers to the numbers, contrary to the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Dyfed Powys Police

The Chief Constable of Dyfed Powys Police signed an undertaking [pdf] to ensure compliance with the seventh data protection principle after a number of breach incidents occurred which highlighted that many of the force’s police officers had received no data protection training and that there was no refresher training in place either.  The Commissioner did not take formal enforcement action against Dyfed Powys Police on the basis of remedial actions which had already been taken by the controller.

Prosecutions

A former employee of The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust was prosecuted at North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court for an offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The former employee accessed the sensitive medical records of colleagues as well as people she knew that lived in her locality, without the consent of the data controller. The defendant entered a plea of guilty and was fined £700, ordered to pay costs of £364.08 and a Victim Surcharge in the amount of £70.

A former employee of Leicester City Council was convicted of an offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 at Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court after he unlawfully obtained personal data.  The defendant emailed personal data relating to 349 individuals, which included sensitive personal data of service users of the Adult Social Care Department, to his personal email address without his employers’ consent.  He was fined £160, ordered to pay £364.08 prosecution costs and a victim surcharge in the amount of £20.

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 me an E-mail directly.

Data Protection/Privacy Enforcement – August 2017

In this blogpost I shall be looking at the enforcement action taken by the Information Commissioner in the fields of data protection and privacy which was publicised during August 2017.  It is hoped that this will become a regular monthly feature on this blog.

Key Points

The key points from the enforcement action publicised by the ICO during the course of August are:

  • Ensure that where your organisation undertakes direct marketing by telephone, you do not make calls to numbers which are listed on the Telephone Preference Service; unless you have been given consent to make such calls.
  • Ensure that contractors who have access to personal data only have access to that personal data which is necessary for the services that they are providing to you.
  • Ensure that you have appropriate technical and organisational measures in places to prevent the unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data when processing personal data over the internet.
  • Ensure that all of your staff (including temporary and agency staff) are given data protection training which is appropriate to their job role, and to ensure that regular refresher training is undertaken.
  • If you are an employee and have access to personal data as part of your job role, do not make use of that access for any purposes not required as part of your employment; including for personal purposes.

Enforcement Action published by ICO in August 2017

H.P.A.S Limited (trading as Safestyle UK)

H.P.A.S Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £70,000 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Commissioner found that they had made unsolicited direct marketing calls to telephone numbers which were listed on the Telephone Preference Service.

Laura Anderson Limited t/a Virgo Home Improvements

Laura Anderson Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [PDF] in the amount of £80,000 and an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after the Commissioner found that they had made unsolicited direct marketing calls to telephone numbers which were listed on the Telephone Preference Service.

Home Logic UK Limited

Home Logic UK Limited were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £50,000 after the Commissioner found that they had made unsolicited direct marketing calls to telephone numbers which were listed on the Telephone Preference Service.

Talk Talk Telecom Group Plc

Talk Talk Telecom Group Plc were served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £100,000.  The Commissioner found that they had failed to have in place adequate technical and organisational measures to prevent against the unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data.  Talk Talk Telecom Group Plc had in place unjustifiably wide-ranging access to personal data by external agents, which put that personal data at risk.

London Borough of Islington

The London Borough of Islington was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £70,000.  The Commissioner found that the Borough’s parking enforcement application had design flaws and some of the functionality was misconfigured, allowing for unauthorised access to personal data.

Nottinghamshire County Council

Nottinghamshire County Council was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice [pdf] in the amount of £70,000.  The Commissioner found that the Council had failed to have in place an authentication process for accessing an internet based allocation service for home carers; this left personal data and sensitive personal data exposed on the internet.

Cheshire West and Chester Council

Cheshire West and Chester Council signed an undertaking [pdf] stating that they would take certain steps to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.  In particular the Commissioner was concerned that a number of self-reported incidents by the council involved staff who had not received data protection training.

Prosecution

A former employee of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust was prosecuted in The Colchester Magistrates’ Court.  The Defendant pleaded guilty to offences under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.  She had accessed the sensitive health records of friends and people she knew and disclosed some of the personal information she obtained obtained.  She was fined £400 for the offence of obtaining the personal data and £650 for the offence of disclosing the personal data.  She was also required to pay prosecution costs and a victim surcharge.

I can provide advice and assistance on a wide range of information law matters.  If you wish to discuss an information law matter with me then you can contact me on 0345 450 0123 or by completing the form on the contact page of this blog.  Alternatively, you can send me an E-mail directly.

Alistair Sloan