ICO to audit data protection practices at Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance after fining both companies for unlawful marketing messages
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £120,000 to an EU referendum campaign and an insurance company for serious breaches of electronic marketing laws and is set to review how both are complying with data protection laws.
The ICO announced an audit and issued a preliminary enforcement notice as well as three notices of intent to fine Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance trading as Go Skippy Insurance, in November 2018 as part of its investigation into data analytics for political purposes.
After considering the companies’ representations, the ICO has issued the fines, confirming a change to one amount, with the other two remaining unchanged. The regulator has also issued two assessment notices to Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance to inform both organisations that they will be audited.
The ICO investigation found that Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance were closely linked. Systems for segregating the personal data of insurance customers’ from that of political subscribers’ were ineffective.
This resulted in Leave.EU using Eldon Insurance customers’ details unlawfully to send almost 300,000 political marketing messages. Leave.EU has been fined £15,000 for this breach.
Eldon Insurance carried out two unlawful direct marketing campaigns. The campaigns involved the sending of over one million emails to Leave.EU subscribers without sufficient consent. Leave.EU has been fined £45,000 and Eldon Insurance has been fined £60,000 for the breach.
Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner said:
“It is deeply concerning that sensitive personal data gathered for political purposes was later used for insurance purposes; and vice versa. It should never have happened.
“We have been told both organisations have made improvements and learned from these events. But the ICO will now audit the organisations to determine how they are using customers’ personal information.”
The assessment notices allow the ICO access to Leave.EU and Eldon’s joint offices, staff, and documentation. It is a criminal offence to obstruct an ICO audit or destroy information covered by it.
The ICO’s audit team will be looking at data protection practices including observing how personal data is processed, considering what policies and procedures are in place and looking at the types of training made available for staff. They will also be interviewing key employees across both organisations including the directors, staff and their data protection officers. The ICO’s audit findings will be made public at the conclusion of its work.
Eldon Insurance has also received an enforcement notice from the ICO ordering the company to take steps to ensure it complies with electronic marketing regulations.
The ICO has published two reports as part of its wide-ranging data analytics investigation. Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence looks at the broader policy issues identified during the investigation along with findings and the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for future action. Investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns is the latest update for the investigation.
If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070, or visit the media section on our website.
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law which came into force in the UK from 25 May 2018. It sits alongside the Data Protection Act 2018. The Act also includes measures related to wider data protection reforms in areas not covered by the GDPR, such as law enforcement and security. The UK’s decision to leave the EU has not affected the commencement of the GDPR.
- The GDPR and the DPA2018 gives the ICO new strengthened powers, including widened assessment notice powers.
- Assessment notices allow the ICO to inspect a company’s data protection practices. An organisation has 28 days to appeal an assessment notice if they think it has been issued incorrectly. Appeals are made to the Information Rights Tribunal.
- Anyone failing to comply with an assessment notice may be fined up to around £17million of 4% of total annual worldwide turnover, whichever is higher.
- These monetary penalties (MPs) were served under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, the laws which govern electronic marketing. The ICO has the power under PECR to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000. It’s illegal to send out marketing emails without consent.
- Monetary penalties are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO, visit ico.org.uk/concerns.