Tag Archives: Privacy and Electronic Communications

Data Protection and Privacy Enforcement: November 2018

0The year is progressing quickly and we’re now onto looking at November’s enforcement action published by the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to privacy and data protection matters. We are beginning to see enforcement action under the Data Protection Act 2018 (“DPA18”) filter through, but the majority is very much still under the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA98”) in respect of breaches which occurred prior to 25 May 2018.

Key Points

  • Carrying out a Data Protection Impact Assessment in the early stages of any project where it is envisaged that personal data will be processed is a useful tool to help highlight privacy and data protection concerns so that they can be addressed in the planning phase. Data protection by design and privacy impact assessments were recommended good practice under the DPA98; however, the GDPR mandates data protection by design and default (Article 25) and the carrying out of data protection impact assessments in certain circumstances (Article 35). Even if the GDPR does not require you to complete a DPIA, it is worthwhile undertaking one in any event – it can also be a helpful document to present to the Commissioner should her office begin any investigation into your organisation.
  • It is important to regularly download an updated version of the Telephone Preference Service list and to do so as close as possible to an intended direct marketing campaign. If you undertake regular direct marketing campaigns then you should probably be downloading the updated list once per month. Relying on an out of date version could mean that you unlawfully call numbers – the cost of regularly obtaining a copy of the TPS list is insignificant compared to the financial penalties that can be issued by the Information Commissioner for contraventions of Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
  • It should go without saying that if the Information Commissioner takes enforcement action against you for contravening privacy and data protection laws then you should ensure that you take adequate remedial measures to ensure that the contravention doesn’t happen again.
  • If you obtain a list of telephone numbers to call for marketing purposes from a third party the obligation rests with you to ensure that you have lawful authority to make (or instruct others on you behalf to make) calls to each intended number.
  • Controllers may no longer be required to notify the Commissioners of their processing of personal data; however, they are still required to make payment to the Commissioner of a fee. Those who either (a) don’t know they are due to pay  a fee; or (b) miss paying their fee and rectify the matter once the Commissioner has contacted them about their non-payment will likely not face formal enforcement action, but those who continue to fail to pay the fee once the Commissioner has contacted them can expect to be required to pay a financial penalty for failure to pay the fee.

Enforcement Action published by the ICO during November 2018

Metropolitan Police Service
The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (MPS) was served with an Enforcement Notice by the Information Commissioner [pdf] requiring the MPS to take a number of specified steps; including the conducting of a data protection impact assessment, in respect of its Gangs Matrix. The Gangs Matrix is part of the MPS’ ongoing effort to reduce the incidences of crime in London arising from gangs. The Notice only emphasises the Commissioner’s primary concerns in respect of the MPS’ compliance with the data protection principles, rather than listing every single contravention. The Notice makes reference to contraventions of the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh data protection principles

DM Bedroom Design Ltd
The Information Commissioner served DM Bedroom Design Ltd with a monetary penalty in the sum of £160,000 [pdf] and also served it with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] after finding that the company had contravened Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”). This was not the first time that the company had received a monetary penalty from the Commissioner for contravening PECR. The company operated an internal suppression list and also advised the Commissioner that it screened lists against the Telephone Preference Service (“TPS”) list; however, the Commissioner found that the company had not downloaded the TPS list since March 2017.

Solartech North East Limited
Solaretech North East Limited (“Solartech”) was served by the Information Commissioner with a monetary penalty in the amount of £90,000 [pdf] and an enforcement notice [pdf]. The Commissioner found that Solartech had contravened Regulation 21 of PECR by making almost 75,000 calls unlawfully to numbers listed with the Telephone Preference Service. Solartech had previously came to the attention of the Commissioner’s office in 2014 and had bene provided with advice from her office as well as subjected to a period of monitoring. Despite this, and further advice and monitoring in 2016/17 Solartech continued to contravene Regulation 21 of PECR. Solartech sought (unsuccessfully) to blame third parties for these contraventions.

Uber
Uber is a popular app which provides taxi services to its users by linking them with Uber drivers in their area. It has bene the subject of many recent legal battles in the Employment field and has now also come to the attention of data protection supervisory authorities in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The Information Commissioner served Uber with a monetary penalty notice in the amount of £385,000 following a cyber attack. [pdf] The Commissioner found that Uber had breached the seventh data protection principle by failing to have in place adequate technical and organisational measures.

Fixed Penalty Notices: Data Protection Fees
The old notification requirement and fee under the DPA98 has gone, but has been replaced with a new data protection fee payable by controllers who are not exempt from the fee. The new fees regulations are found in The Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018. Organisations who are required to pay the fee and fail to do so may be served with a penalty notice by the Commissioner requiring them to pay a fixed penalty calculated in relation to the amount of the fee payable under the Regulations by the controller. The Commissioner has taken enforcement action, in the form of fixed penalty notices, against a number of controllers in the business, manufacturing and finance sectors for failure to pay their data protection fees; even after being contacted by the Commissioner about the unpaid fee. The Commissioner has not published all of the penalty notices, or even a list of controllers subject to enforcement action, but has instead published “example” notices (which read more like templates than examples) for each of the three sectors.

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 and Privacy Enforcement: October 2018

Regular readers of this blog will know that every month I look at the published enforcement action taken by the Information Commissioner in respect of privacy and data protection law. The infractions are often very similar and the same key lessons to take away from the enforcement action appear frequently; October’s enforcement action proves no different. There is, however, a mixture of enforcement action taken under the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA98) – in respect of breaches that occurred prior to the 25 May 2018 – and enforcement action taken under the Data Protection Act 2018 (”DPA18).

Key Lessons

  • When the Commissioner’s office makes contact with you in the course of an investigation it is advisable to cooperate with the investigation. The Commissioner has powers to require persons (not just data controllers) to provide her office with information. It is a criminal offence not to comply with an information notice issued by the Commissioner under the DPA98 while a person who fails to comply with an Information Notice served under the DPA18 can be made the subject of an Information Order by the court.
  • Before making telephone calls for the purpose of direct marketing it is essential that organisations check their list against the list held by the Telephone Preference Service. It is against the law to call a number listed with the TPS for the purposes of direct marketing unless you can show that the recipient has not objected, for the time being, to receiving marketing calls from you. The law has recently been changed and the Commissioner will soon be able to serve a monetary penalty on directors of a company for breaches of the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
  • Any removable media such as CDs and USB memory sticks should be encrypted to prevent unauthorised access to personal data in the event that the media is lost or stolen. Controllers should also consider putting in place technical barriers to ensure that personal data is not unnecessarily being put onto removable media.
  • When drafting privacy statements where you are seeking to obtain consent for direct marketing; it is important to be specific about just what marketing might be sent. It is insufficient to rely upon statements along the lines of “you consent to receive marketing from our carefully selected third party affiliates” and similar.
  • The person who instigates a call is liable for a contravention of PECR, not the person who makes the call. Therefore you cannot avoid liability by engaging a third party contractor to make calls on your behalf. If you have directed that the calls be made then you are liable for any contraventions of PECR. Therefore, companies who engage third parties to undertake telemarketing on their behalf need to ensure that they have in place adequate due diligence to ensure that there are no negligent contraventions of PECR.
  • It’s not enough to simply rely upon your own internal suppression lists when making telephone calls for the purposes of direct marketing; it is also important that call lists as screened against the list maintained by the Telephone Preference Service. It’s also important that companies engaging in telesales regularly obtain an updated version of the list maintained by the TPS and you should never seek to rely upon a version of the list that is more than 28 days old.
  • It can be worthwhile brining appeals against Notices served by the Commissioner – especially where the terms of the notice are unclear. Where reasons are provided for a decision they generally require to be intelligible.

Enforcement action published by the Information Commissioner in October 2018

Oaklands Assist UK Limited
Oaklands Assist UK Limited (“OAUK”) was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice  in the sum of £150,000 [pdf] after the Commissioner found that OAUK had used a public electronic communications service for the purpose of direct marketing in contravention of Regulation 21 of the Privacy and electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”). It appears that OAUK did not initially comply with the Commissioner’s investigation as the penalty notice states that the Commissioner had to serve an Information Notice on OAUK and it only made contact with the Commissioner’s office when they were threated with prosecution for failure to comply with an Information Notice. The Commissioner found that OAUK had made 63,724 direct marketing calls to numbers that were listed on the TPS, in contravention of Regulation 21 of PECR.

Heathrow Airport Limited
Heathrow Airport Limited (“LHR”) was served with a monetary penalty notice in the sum of £120,000 [pdf] after the Commissioner found that it had breached the seventh data protection principle in schedule 1 to the DPA98. LHR had lost an unencrypted USB memory stick which had been found by a member of the public in West London. The member of the public who found the USB memory stick took it to a public library where they accessed it. Approximately 1% of the files on the memory stick contained personal data, including sensitive personal data. The Commissioner found that the use of removable media was widespread within LHR, but that there was little in the way of measures in places to ensure oversight. Furthermore, there were no technical barriers in place to limit or restrict the downloading of information from LHR’s systems onto removable media.

Boost Finance Limited
Boost Finance Limited (“Boost”) was served with a monetary penalty notice in the sum of £90,000 [pdf] after the Commissioner found that it was responsible for a large number of unsolicited E-mails in respect of pre-paid funeral plans. The Commissioner found that Boost (trading as findmeafuneralplan.com) had instigated, via affiliates that it had appointed, in excess of 4 million unsolicited marketing E-mails contrary to Regulation 22 of PECR. The E-mails were sent to individuals who had subscribed to a number of Boost’s affiliates. The Commissioner concluded [para 16] that Boost had “relied upon inadequate, generic, vague, misleading, tiered and incomplete personal data collection methods and privacy statements as a way of obtaining consent to send direct marketing E-mails.”

Aggregate IQ Data Services Limited
This is not a new Enforcement Notice, but rather it is a notice of variation of the first ever enforcement notice served under the DPA18 [pdf]. Aggregate IQ Data Services Limited (“AIQ”) was served with an enforcement notice by the Commissioner in respect of her investigation into data analytics in politics (which arose out of the allegations surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica). AIQ had appealed the Notice to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) and has since discontinued that appeal. The revised notice is in much tighter terms than the original notice served by the Commissioner. The revised notice requires AIQ to “[e]rase any personal data of individuals in the UK, determined by reference to the domain name of the email address processed by AIQ, retained by AIQ on its servers as notified to the Information Commissioner…” AIQ is required to do this within 30 days of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia notifying it that either the OIPC no longer requires it for an investigation, or that the OIPC informs AIQ that it is happy for AIQ to comply with the notice (whichever occurs the soonest).

Facebook Ireland Ltd
Facebook Ireland Ltd is the company who UK users (and indeed other EU users) of the Facebook social media platform have a relationship with. The Commissioner served Facebook Ireland with a monetary penalty notice in the sum of £500,000 for breaches of the first and seventh data protection principles [pdf]. The Commissioner considered that Facebook UK Limited, a UK establishment, had carried out certain activities on behalf of Facebook Ireland and Facebook Inc. As the breaches occurred while the DPA98 was still in force, £500,000 represents the maximum penalty that the Commissioner could issue. It is understood that Facebook Ireland has appealed the monetary penalty to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights).

ACT Response Limited
The Information Commissioner served ACT Response Limited (“ACT”) with a monetary penalty notice in the amount of £140,000 [pdf] after she found that ACT had instigated in excess of £490,000 telephone calls for the purposes of direct marketing in contravention of Regulation 21 of PECR. The company operated its own internal suppression list, but did not screen its lists against the Telephone Preference Service list. ACT provided a copy of a training manual to the commissioner during her investigation, which contained a script which directed those making the calls to ask whether a person was listed on the TPS and to apologise if they were. ACT tried to blame the contravention on one of its sister companies as the company that made the calls, but the sister company made the calls on behalf of ACT and the lines used to make the calls were registered to ACT.

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.

Directors’ personal liability: Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

One of the most frequent areas where the Information Commissioner undertakes enforcement action is in relation to breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”). PECR, among other things, governs direct marketing which takes place by way of telephone, SMS and E-mail (but not post). Under the current regime, the Commissioner is able to issue Monetary Penalty Notices (up to a maximum of £500,000) to data controllers who fail to comply with the requirements of PECR; however, the Commissioner has for sometime wanted greater powers. In particular, the Commissioner has been seeking the power to issue monetary penalties to directors of those companies.

When a company is served with a monetary penalty notice for breaching PECR, it is not uncommon for the company to close and for a new company to be created in its place with the same people at its helm, undertaking the same activities. The new company is often referred to as a phoenix company. This often means that (a) the penalty goes unpaid; and (b) the same individuals are continuing with their unlawful activity under a separate and distinct entity which is free from the debts and burdens of the old company.

On Thursday 15th November 2018, the Government made The Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendment) Regulations 2018; which are due to enter into force as from Monday 17th December 2018. These Regulations amend PECR to allow the Commissioner to also serve a monetary penalty notice on “officer of the body” in certain circumstances. An officer of the body is defined as, in relation to a body corporate, “a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body or any person purporting to act in such capacity, or where the affairs of the body are managed by its members, a member”; and in relation to a Scottish partnership, “a partner or any person purporting to act as a partner.”

This opens up a wide variety of persons who serve in companies and partnerships to the possibility of being personally served with a monetary penalty notice as well as the company. However, the Regulations do not allow the Commissioner to serve a monetary penalty notice only on the officer; it is a pre-requisite of the amended regulations that the Commissioner must have served a monetary penalty notice on the controller.

Furthermore, the Commissioner can’t just automatically serve a monetary penalty notice on the officer(s) of the body on each occasion that she serves a monetary penalty notice on the body. The power only applies where the contravention of PECR “took place with the consent or connivance of the officer” or where the contravention is “attributable to any neglect on the part of the officer.”

In short, if a body ceases to exist after being served with a monetary penalty for contraventions of PECR; the commissioner could start coming after the officers personally where they consented, or connived, to contravene PECR or where simply negligent in respect of any contravention. It will be interesting to see just how the Commissioner goes about using this power (the possibility of a personal financial penalty of up to £500,000 will be significant for the vast majority of officers). It is more than probable that the Commissioner will utilise this new power where she can as it is one that her office has been seeking for some time.

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice or assistance in respect of a privacy/data protection, or any other information law, matter then contact Alistair Sloan on 0141 229 0880 or you can send him an E-mail. You can also follow our dedicated information law twitter account.

 

Data Protection and Privacy Enforcement: September 2018

October is nearly over and I am only now getting round to looking at the Information Commissioner’s data protection and privacy enforcement from September. As with most months, many of the key points drawn from September’s enforcement action will be familiar to regular reads of this feature. However, they are evidently worth repeating.

Key Points

  • Once again, it is clear that organisations engaged in direct marketing where they have obtained contact details from third parties are not carrying out sufficient due diligence checks on the data that is received by them. It is not going to be enough to simply rely upon an assurance from the supplier that all the contact details comply with the law; the recipient organisation needs to check this for themselves. Often the agreement that is obtained from the ultimate intended recipient of the marketing communications is not specific enough to enable the intended marketing to be undertaken lawfully. For example, these agreements often simply refer to “carefully selected partners” (or words of similar effect) – this is not specific enough and should not be relied upon.
  • The right of subject access is a fundamental right afforded to data subjects and data controllers should therefore ensure that they have in place sufficient processes to ensure that they can comply with subject access requests within the required time (one month under the GDPR). Data controller should also ensure that they have in place adequate resources (including resilience) to meet the tight deadlines.
  • It is important that organisations have in place processes to stop bulk extraction of personal data (where bulk extraction would not be legitimately required) or to ensure that unauthorised bulk extraction is either not able to take place or be spotted quickly when it has taken place. It is important that systems which contain personal data are monitored to identify unusual or suspicious activity.

Data Protection and Privacy Enforcement from September 2018

Everything DM Limited
Everything DM Limited was served with an Enforcement Notice [pdf] together with a monetary penalty in the amount of £60,000 [pdf]. The Commissioner found that Everything DM Limited had been responsible for the sending of 1.42 million E-mails without having in place appropriate consent, contrary to the requirements of Regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (“PECR”). The commissioner’s investigation revealed that EDML relied on the consent of third parties but didn’t take reasonable steps to make sure the data complied with the requirements of PECR.

London Borough of Lewisham
The Information Commissioner’s Office issued an Enforcement Notice to the London Borough of Lewisham council in respect of its outstanding subject access requests [pdf]. As at 29 March 2018, the council had a backlog of 113 unanswered subject access requests; including one request that was made to the council as far back as 2013. The Council had in place a recovery plan to eliminate the backlog by 31 July 2018, but it failed to meet that deadline. The notice records that there were still 19 requests that pre-dated the 25th May 2018. The Commissioner’s office considered that the Council had breached principles 6 and 7 and that the breach was one that was likely to cause distress to data subjects. The Council was required by the Notice to comply with the subject access requests by 15 October 2018.

Equifax Limited
Equifax Limited, a credit reference agency, was served with a monetary penalty in the sum of £500,000 after the Commissioner found that Equifax Limited had breached 5 of the 8 data protection principles in the Data Protection act 1998 [pdf].

Bupa Insurance Services Limited
Bupa Insurance Services Limited was served with a monetary penalty notice in the sum of £175,000 after it was discovered that personal data of Bupa Global’s customers was being offered for sale on the “dark web” [pdf]. The matter was investigated and it was discovered that a member of Bupa’s Partnership advisory Team had made unauthorised use of personal data accessed from a system they had access to. The Commissioner considered that Bupa failed to have in placed adequate technical organisational measures as required by the seventh data protection principle. Bupa was unaware of a defect in the system and was unable to detect unusual activity, such as bulk extractions of data; nor did Bupa routinely monitor the activity log of the relevant system.

Prosecutions
A former nurse at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust was prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office after she unlawfully accessed patient’s records. The nurse accessed patients’ medical records outside of her role; in particular she inappropriately accessed the records of 5 patients, 17 times. The nurse admitted offences under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 and was fined £400. She was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £364.08 and a victim surcharge of £40.

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: August 2018

August was another quiet month in terms of the data protection and privacy enforcement action published by the Information Commissioner’s Office. There were just two Monetary Penalty Notices published by the ICO last month. There are still a few key points to draw from last month’s published enforcement action – some of which are featured fairly regularly on these monthly blogposts, but are worthy of repitition.

Key Points

  • When carrying out direct marketing by telephone it is important that you check the intended list against the list held by the Telephone Preference Service before undertaking the campaign. If any number you intend on calling appears on that list you must satisfy yourself that you have sufficient evidence to support that you can still call that number, despite it being on the TPS.
  • If you’re getting your telephone lists from a third party then you must still do your own due diligence. Ensure that you have received sufficient evidence from the seller that the persons on the list have, in fact, indicated that they don’t mind being marketed to.
  • When drafting a privacy notice which sets out that you may share personal data with third parties it is important to be as accurate and precise as possible. It is not enough to include something along the lines of that you will share personal data with “carefully selected partners” and if you have a detailed list of organisations (or categories of organisations) that you may share personal data with, it is important that you do not share personal data with third parties who do not fall within that list.

Enforcement action published by the ICO in August 2018

AMS Marketing Limited
AMS Marketing Limited was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £100,000 [pdf] after if breached Regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. AMS Marketing had made in excess of 75,000 calls to numbers which were listed with the Telephone Preference Service and were unable to demonstrate to the Commissioner that they had been notified by the subscriber that they did not object, for the time being, to receiving calls for the purpose of direct marketing.

Lifecycle Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd
Life Style Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd (also known as ‘Emma’s Diary’) was served with a Monetary Penalty Notice in the amount of £140,000 after it failed to comply with the first data protection principle in Schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA1998”). The company sold the personal data of more than 1 million individuals to the Labour Party for use in its campaign during the General election that took place in 2017 without telling those individuals that this is something that it might do with their personal data. The company, the Commissioner found, had no lawful basis within Schedule 2 of the DPA1998 for processing the personal data of those individuals.

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.

 

 

Privacy and Data Protection: director disqualified

In September 2017 the Information Commissioner served a Monetary Penalty Notice on Easyleads Limited in the amount of £260,000 [pdf]; the company was also served with an Enforcement Notice by the Commissioner requiring the company to comply with the terms of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 [pdf]. It has since transpired that the company never paid the monetary penalty notice and the Information Commissioner petitioned the court to have the company wound-up. It is not unheard of for monetary penalty notices served by the Commissioner to go unpaid; however, where they do it is often because the company goes into liquidation. A copy of the order winding the company up following the petition by the Information Commissioner [pdf] can be found on the Companies House website.

What is interesting about this case though is an announcement by the Insolvency Service that the Secretary of State had accepted a disqualification undertaking from Shaun Harkin, the director of Easyleads Limited. The effect of the undertaking is to ban Mr. Harkin from “directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company for six years”.

The announcement from the insolvency Service explains that the reason Mr Harkin is now banned from being a director of a company for 6 years is because he failed to ensure that the company complied with its statutory obligations, specifically that he failed to ensure that the company complied with the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 around undertaking direct marketing by telephone.

This is an important announcement from the Insolvency Service; it demonstrates that the effects of failing to comply with data protection and privacy law can be wide-ranging. There is the potential for directors running companies which fail to comply with data protection and privacy law facing being banned from being involved in the formation or management of companies for a not insignificant period of time. It remains to be seen whether this sort of action becomes much more frequent and it is not something that is directly in the control of the Information Commissioner herself, but if the Insolvency Service is starting to take seriously breaches of data protection and privacy law by companies and looking to disqualify directors (where it can within the parameters of the law) then this is clearly something that those involved in the formation and management of limited companies ought to bear in mind when considering data protection and privacy compliance.

Alistair Sloan

If you require advice or assistance on a matter relating to data protection or privacy law then you can contact Alistair Sloan on 0141 229 0880 or send him an E-mail. You can also follow our twitter account dedicated to information law matters.

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.