A search warrant was executed today at a property in London as part of an investigation into the illegal access of customer details from a nationwide car repair company.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which carried out the search, believes people’s information was unlawfully traded and could be linked to some of them receiving nuisance calls.
Mike Shaw, ICO Enforcement Manager, said:
“Our experience shows that unscrupulous people access personal data about car accidents to sell it on to marketing firms, who use the details to make nuisance calls.
“This is against the law and exploits people’s right to have their personal details respected. It also fuels the industry behind the nuisance calls so many of us are bombarded with.
“We searched this house to gather more evidence as we have reason to believe that a person living at this address has illegally accessed personal information.”
Today’s search warrant, in the Palmers Green area of London, is part of an investigation by the ICO prompted by concerns raised by Nationwide Accident Repairs Services (NARS).
NARS told ICO investigators that a computer system it uses had been unlawfully accessed to view car repair estimates which contained personal data. The person of interest to the search warrant carried out today is not a current employee of NARS.
The ICO’s investigation into the matter is ongoing.
It is not against the law to sell data lists, but the data must have been obtained lawfully and those selling it must have the right to sell it on.
Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
The offence is punishable by way of a fine issued by the courts. The ICO continues to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.
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 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
- Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
fairly and lawfully processed;
processed for limited purposes;
adequate, relevant and not excessive;
accurate and up to date;
not kept for longer than is necessary;
processed in line with your rights;
not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
- The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.
There are specific rules on:
marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
cookies (and similar technologies);
keeping communications services secure; and
customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.
We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.
- Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) 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 telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.