Category Archives: Data Compliance

GDPR – ICO Puts Trust at the Heart of Data Processing

Trust & data

Information Commissioner’s Annual Report

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published its annual report on the 13th July. It is the first time the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has compiled an annual report, having taken up the post a year ago.

The report highlights the increased powers and expanding caseload and capacities  of the regulator. At a time of increasing concern about the use (and abuse) of personal information, the ICO is seeing a great deal more work.  This is, in part, reflected by an increase in staff numbers of around 8% year on year.

GDPR and Public Trust

The ICO’s foreword emphasises its commitment to regaining public trust in data controllers and processors. It is hoped that changing laws provide the regulator with an opportunity to enable individuals to trust in large organisations handling personal information. The Commissioner  states that “trust” will be “at the heart of what the Information Commissioner’s Office will do in the next four years.” Confidence in the digital economy is a consideration that the regulator acknowledges and aims to encourage, especially since the digital sector is growing 30% faster than any other part of the economy.

This echoes the government’s concerns regarding the digital economy and its relation to data protection principles that were enumerated in the Queen’s Speech and addressed by several measures including a Data Protection Bill, which is designed to implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In a year characterised by the impending replacement of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) with the GDPR in May 2018, the report’s outline of major work undertaken leads with a nod to the many public, private and third sector organisations that will be preparing for the new legislative framework.

Consent

‘Consent,’ which has become one of the watchwords for the GDPR (and a word that will be increasingly found on the bulletin boards and coffee mugs of marketing departments) will take on a stricter legal definition soon – a marketing monolith for which the ICO anticipates organisations will seek detailed guidance.

Data Breaches

But the GDPR by no means eclipsed the ICO’s other responsibilities. Nuisance calls, unsolicited marketing and data sharing have routinely seen organisations facing fines and other civil measures. Breaches of the DPA and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) such as these by a number of charities, of which the Daily Mail reported allegations in 2015, have led the ICO to issue 13 civil monetary penalties to the value of £181,000.

Indeed, some companies, Honda (whom we reported about last month) being an explicit example, have been issued fines for unsolicited marketing in breach of the DPA due to emails which asked for clarification regarding customers’ marketing preferences – which Honda for example maintained were a means of preparing for the GDPR. So while preparation for the GDPR is something to which the ICO has committed a great deal of resources, they have by no means neglected upholding the current law. The ICO has consistently made clear that it is not acceptable to break the law in preparation for another.

Monetary penalties

Overall, the ICO issued more civil monetary penalties for breaches of PECR than ever before (23), to the value of £1,923,000. It has also issued 16 fines for serious breaches of data protection principles totalling £1,624,500. It cannot be stated enough that after May 2018, these figures could skyrocket if organisations do not find ways of being compliant with the new, more expansive and rigorous legislation. Criminal prosecutions have seen a 267% increase, and the ICO has received 18,300 concerns regarding data protection brought to them – 2,000 more than last year.

Subject Access Requests (SARs)

Data controllers or organisations handling a wide range of personal data may have increasing requests for Subject Access Requests (SARs). The report states that 42% of all concerns brought to the ICO where the nature was specified were related to subject access. While these requests for data are provided under the DPA (and will be upheld with more rigour as one the data subject ‘rights’ by the GDPR) and not the freedom of information legislation, it nonetheless falls upon organisations of whatever size to be co-operative and compliant when the disclosure of information is required. It is important for organisations to train their staff to be able to recognise a SAR and act promptly.  Data controllers must recognise the importance of compliance not only with the law but with ICO audits and investigations, as well as of the necessity for efficient and conscientious data handling.

For information about how DC can help you meet the requirements of GDPR,  please email dc@datacompliant.co.uk.

Harry Smithson, July 25th 2017

GDPR and Data Privacy Impact Assessments (DPIAs)

DPIA blog image

When are they needed?  How are they done?

Next year under the new GDPR data protection legislation, Privacy Impact Assessments will become known as Data Privacy Impact Assessments, and will be mandatory instead of merely recommended.

The ICO currently describes PIAs as “a tool which can help organisations identify the most effective way to comply with their data protection obligations and meet individuals’ expectations of privacy.”

While the soon-to-be-rechristened DPIAs will be legally required, data controllers should continue to fully embrace these opportunities to ensure that heavy fines, brand reputational damage and the associated risks of data breaches can be averted from an early stage in any planned operation.

When will a DPIA be legally required?

Organisations will be required to carry out a DPIA when data processing is “likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals.” This can be during an existing or before a planned project involving data processing that comes with a risk to the rights of individuals as provided by the Data Protection Act. They can also range in scope, depending on the organisation and the scale of its project.

DPIAs will therefore be required when an organisation is planning an operation that could affect anyone’s right to privacy: broadly speaking, anyone’s right ‘to be left alone.’ DPIAs are primarily designed to allow organisations to avoid breaching an individual’s freedom to “control, edit, manage or delete information about themselves and to decide how and to what extent such information is communicated to others.” If there is a risk of any such breach, a DPIA must be followed through.

Listed below are examples of projects, varying in scale, in which the current PIA is advised – and it is safe to assume all of these examples will necessitate a DPIA after the GDPR comes into force:

  • A new IT system for storing and accessing personal data.
  • A new use of technology such as an app.
  • A data sharing initiative where two or more organisations (even if they are part of the same group company) seek to pool or link sets of personal data.
  • A proposal to identify people in a particular group or demographic and initiate a course of action.
  • Processing quantities of sensitive personal data
  • Using existing data for a new and unexpected or more intrusive purpose.
  • A new surveillance system (especially one which monitors members of the public) or the application of new technology to an existing system (for example adding Automatic number plate recognition capabilities to existing CCTV).
  • A new database which consolidates information held by separate parts of an organisation.
  • Legislation, policy or strategies which will impact on privacy through the collection of use of information, or through surveillance or other monitoring

How is a DPIA carried out?

There are 7 main steps that comprise a DPIA:

  1. Identify the need for a DPIA

This will mainly involve answering ‘screening questions,’ at an early stage in a project’s development, to identify the potential impacts on individuals’ privacy. The project management should begin to think about how they can address these issues, while consulting with stakeholders.

  1. Describe the information flows

Explain how information will be obtained, used and retained. This part of the process can identify the potential for – and help to avoid – ‘function creep’: when data ends up being processed or used unintentionally, or unforeseeably.

  1. Identify the privacy and related risks

Compile a record of the risks to individuals in terms of possibly intrusions of data privacy as well as corporate risks or risks to the organisation in terms of regulatory action, reputational damage and loss of public trust. This involves a compliance check with the Data Protection Act and the GDPR.

  1. Identify and evaluate the privacy solutions

With the record of risks ready, devise a number of solutions to eliminate or minimise these risks, and evaluate the costs and benefits of each approach. Consider the overall impact of each privacy solution.

  1. Sign off and record the DPIA outcomes

Obtain appropriate sign-offs and acknowledgements throughout the organisation. A report based on the findings and conclusions of the prior steps of the DPIA should be published and accessible for consultation throughout the project.

  1. Integrate the outcomes into the project plan

Ensure that the DPIA is implemented into the overall project plan. The DPIA should be utilised as an integral component throughout the development and execution of the project.

  1. Consult with internal and external stakeholders as needed throughout the process

This is not a ‘step’ as such, but an ongoing commitment to stakeholders to be transparent about the process of carrying out the DPIA, and being open to consultation and the expertise and knowledge of the organisation’s various stakeholders – from colleagues to customers. The ICO explains, “data protection risks are more likely to remain unmitigated on projects which have not involved discussions with the people building a system or carrying out procedures.”

DPIAs – what are the benefits?

There are benefits to DPIAs for organisations who conduct them.  Certainly there are cost benefits to be gained from knowing the risks before starting work:

  • cost benefits from adopting a Privacy by Design approach:  knowing the risks before starting work allows issues to be fixed early, resulting in reduced development costs and delays to the schedule
  • risk mitigation in relation to fines and loss of sales caused by lack of customer and/or shareholder confidence
  • reputational benefits and trust building from being seen to consider and embed privacy issues into a programme’s design from the outset

For more information about DPIAs and how Data Compliant can help, please email dc@datacompliant.co.uk.

Harry Smithson   20th July 2017

ICO updates Subject Access Requests (SARs) advice for data controllers following Court of Appeal decisions

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has updated its ‘Code of Practice on Subject Access Requests’ chiefly in response to several Court of Appeal decisions made earlier this year related to SARs. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, individuals (‘data subjects’) may request access to their personal information held by a ‘data controller.’

These requests for information are called SARs, and can range from the request for specific or limited information to the request for the entirety of held information including why it is held and to whom it may have been disclosed. The scope of a data controller’s obligations, therefore, will vary from case to case, and will be particularly burdensome for large organisations. Currently, data controllers may charge a fee of up to £10 for processing a SAR, and must provide the requester the relevant information within 40 calendar days. When the GDPR comes into force next year, data controllers will normally not be entitled to charge a fee, irrespective of the inconvenience, and will be expected to provide the information within a shorter timeframe of 30 calendar days.

However, the ICO has revised its guidance in dealing with SARs to prepare controllers for data compliance in light of the Court of Appeal’s judgements on a string of cases in which SARs took place alongside ongoing or threatened litigation – cases which in the opinion of numerous legal commentators, therefore, highlight the potential for widespread abuse of SARs to redress grievances outside the purview of data protection law.

The three key changes to the ICO’s Code

  1. Scope for assessing ‘disproportionate effort’

The DPA includes an exemption from having to respond to SARs if this would involve ‘disproportionate effort’ for the data controller. Whereas the Code previously indicated that a refusal to provide information on the grounds of it being difficult is unacceptable, it now, with greater lenience, states: “there is scope for assessing whether, in the circumstances of a particular case, supplying a copy of the requested information in permanent form would result in so much work or expense as to outweigh the requester’s right of access to their personal data.” The ICO expects controllers to evaluate the benefits to the data subject as a result of the SAR against the difficulties in complying with the request, and assess whether the scope of the request is reasonable.

  1. Dialogue between controller and requester

The ICO now advises controllers to enter into dialogue with data subjects following a SAR. This may allow the requester to specify which information they require, thereby refining the request, and making the process more manageable and less likely to result in disproportionate effort. The Code continues to explain how it will take into account both controller’s and subject’s willingness to participate in this dialogue if they receive a complaint about the handling of a SAR.

  1. Information management systems and redaction of third-party data

 The ICO now expects controllers to have information management systems wherein personal information, including archived or back-up data, can be found expediently in anticipation of a SAR. Moreover, the information management system should allow for the redaction of third-party data. This is important, since certain SARs may be declined if the information requested would result some way in the disclosure of personal information about another living person.

Subject Access Requests: For more information have a look at the 4 Court of Appeal decisions that informed the ICO’s revised guidance:  Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing LLP, Ittihadieh v 5-11 Cheyne Gardens, Deer v Oxford University, Holyoake v Candy

Harry Smithson 7th July 2017

Weekly Roundup: Global Cyber-Attack, Google Scan Emails, Political Party Under Investigation, Nuisance Calls Fine

Malware outbreak in 64 countries, Google scrap email scans, and the Conservative Party face ‘serious allegations’

Global cyber-attack disrupts companies in 64 countries

Corrupted Ukrainian accountancy software ‘MEDoc’ is suspected to be the medium of a cyberattack on companies ranging from British ad agency WPP to Tasmanian Cadbury’s factory, with many European and American firms reporting disruption to services. Banks in Ukraine, Russian oil giant Rosneft, shipping giant Maersk, a Rotterdam port operator, Dutch global parcel service TNT and US law firm DLA Piper were among those suffering inabilities to process orders or else general computer shutdowns.

Heralded as “a recent dangerous trend” by Microsoft, this attack comes just 6 weeks after the WannaCry attack primarily affecting NHS hospitals. Both attacks appear to make use of a Windows vulnerability called ‘Eternal Blue,’ thought to have been discovered by the NSA and leaked online – although the NSA has not confirmed this. The NSA’s possible use of this vulnerability, which has served to create a model for cyber-attacks for political and criminal hackers, has been described by security experts as “a nightmare scenario.”

A BBC report suggests that given 80% of all instances of this malware were in Ukraine, and that the provided email address for the ‘ransom’ closed down quickly, the attack could be politically motivated at Ukraine or those who do business in Ukraine. Recent announcements suggest it could be related to data not money.

The malware appears to have been channelled through the automatic update system, according to security experts including the malware expert credited with ending the WannaCry attack, Marcus Hutchins. The MEDoc software would have originally begun this process legitimately, but at some point the update system released the malware into numerous companies’ computer systems.

 

Google to stop scanning Gmail accounts for personalised marketing data

In a blog published at the end of last week, the tech firm Google have confirmed that they will stop scanning Gmail users’ emails for the sake of accruing data to be used in personalised adverts, by the end of the year. This will put the consumer version of Gmail in line with the business edition.

Google had advertised their Gmail service by offering 1GB of ‘free’ webmail storage. However, it transpired that Google was paying for this offer by running these scans.

This recent change in tactic has been met with ‘qualified’ welcome by privacy campaigners. Executive director Dr Gus Hosein of Privacy International, the British charity who have been campaigning for regulators to intervene since they discovered the scans, stated:

When they first came up with the dangerous idea of monetising the content of our communications, Privacy International warned Google against setting the precedent of breaking the confidentiality of messages for the sake of additional income. […] Of course they can now take this decision after they have consolidated their position in the marketplace as the aggregator of nearly all the data on internet usage, aside from the other giant, Facebook.

Google faced a fairly substantial backlash on account of these scans when they were discovered, notably from Microsoft, with their series of critical ‘Gmail man’ adverts, depicting a man searching through people’s messages.

However, digital rights watchdog Big Brother Watch celebrated Google’s move, describing it as “absolutely a step in the right direction, let’s hope it encourages others to follow suit.”

UK Conservative Party under investigation for breaching data protection and election law

A Channel 4 News undercover investigation has provoked ‘serious allegations’ of data protection and election offences against the Conservative Party.

The investigation uncovered the party’s use of a market research firm based in Neath, South Wales, to make thousands of cold calls to voters in marginal seats ahead of the election this month. Call centre staff followed a ‘market research’ script, but under scrutiny this script appears to canvass for specific local Conservative candidates – in a severe breach of election law.

Despite the information commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s written warnings to all major parties before the election began, reminding them of data protection law and the illegality of such telecommunications, the Conservatives operated a fake market research company. This constitutes a breach separate to election law, and mandates the Information Commissioner’s Office to investigate.

The ICO’s statement on 23rd June reads,

The investigation has uncovered what appear to be underhand and potentially unlawful practices at the centre, in calls made on behalf of the Conservative Party. These allegations include:

  • Paid canvassing on behalf of Conservative election candidates – banned under election law.
  • Political cold calling to prohibited numbers
  • Misleading calls claiming to be from an ‘independent market research company’ which does not apparently exist

MyHome Installations Ltd fined £50,000 for nuisance calls

Facing somewhat less public scrutiny and condemnation than the Conservative Party, Maidstone domestic security firm MyHome Installations has been issued a £50,000 fine by the ICO for making nuisance calls.

The people who received these calls had explicitly opted out of telephone marketing by registering their numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the “UK’s official opt-out of telephone marketing.”

The ICO received 169 complaints from members of the public who’d received unwanted calls about electrical surveys and home security from MyHome Installations Ltd.

Harry Smithson 28 June 2017

GDPR Re-Permissioning needs careful planning

Morrisons becomes the latest high-profile company fined for breaking Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)

The ICO, the independent authority responsible for investigating breaches of data protection law, has fined the fourth largest supermarket chain in the UK £10,500 for sending 130,671 of their customers’ unsolicited marketing emails.

These customers had explicitly opted-out of receiving marketing emails related to their Morrisons ‘More’ loyalty card when they signed up to the scheme. In October and November 2016, Morrisons used the email addresses associated with these loyalty cards to promote various deals. This is in contravention of laws defining the misuse of personal information, which stipulate that individuals must give consent to receive personal ‘direct’ marketing via email.

‘Service emails’ versus ‘Marketing emails’

While the emails’ subject heading was ‘Your Account Details,’ the customers were told that by changing the marketing preferences on their loyalty card account, they could receive money off coupons, extra More Points and the company’s latest news.

The subject heading might suggest to the recipient that they are ‘service emails,’ which are defined under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as any email an organisation has a legal obligation to send, or an email without which an individual would be disadvantaged (for instance, a reminder for a booked train departure). But there is a fine line between a service email and a marketing email: if an email contains any brand promotion or advertising content whatsoever, it is deemed the latter under the DPA. Emails that ask for clarification on marketing preferences are still marketing emails and a misuse of personal contact data.

Morrisons explained to the ICO that the recipients of these emails had opted-in to marketing related to online groceries, but opted-out of marketing related to their loyalty cards, so emails had been sent for the ostensible purpose of qualifying marketing preferences which also included promotional content. Morrisons could not provide evidence that these customers had consented to receiving this type of email, however, and they were duly fined – although in cases such as this it is often the losses from reputational damage that businesses fear more.

Fines and reputational damage

This comes just three months after the ICO confirmed fines – for almost identical breaches of PECR – of £13,000 and £70,000 for Honda and Exeter-based airline Flybe respectively. Whereas Honda could not prove that 289,790 customers had given consent to direct e-marketing, Flybe disregarded 3.3 million addressees’ explicit wishes to not receive marketing emails.

Even a fine of £70,000 – which can currently be subject to a 20% early payment discount – for sending out emails to existing customers with some roundabout content in them for the sake of promotion, will seem charitable when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) updates the PECR and DPA in 2018. Under the new regulations, misuse of data including illegal marketing risks a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover.

The ICO has acknowledged Honda’s belief that their emails were a means of helping their firm remain compliant with data protection law, and that the authority “recognises that companies will be reviewing how they obtain customer consent for marketing to comply with stronger data protection legislation coming into force in May 2018.”

These three cases are forewarnings of the imminent rise in stakes for not marketing in compliance with data protection law. The GDPR, an EU regulation that will demand British businesses’ compliance irrespective of Brexit, not only massively increases the monetary penalty for non-compliance, but also demands greater accountability to individuals with regard to the use and storage of their personal data.

The regulators recent actions show that companies will not be able cut legal corners under the assumption of ambiguity between general service and implicit promotional emails. And with the GDPR coming into force next year, adherence to data protection regulations is something marketing departments will need to find the time and resources to prepare for.

Harry Smithson, 22/06/17

Queen’s Speech Confirms New Bill to Replace Data Protection Act 1998

As part of several of measures aimed at “making our country safer and more united,” a new Data Protection Bill has been announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The Bill, which follows up proposals in the Conservative manifesto ahead of the election in June, is designed to make the UK’s data protection framework “suitable for our new digital age, allowing citizens to better control their data.”

The intentions behind the Bill are to:

  • Give people more rights over the use and storage of their personal information. Social media platforms will be required to delete data gathered about people prior to them turning 18. The ‘right to be forgotten’ is enshrined in the Bill’s requirement of organisations to delete an individual’s data on request or when there are “no longer legitimate grounds for retaining it.”
  • Implement the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and the new Directive which applies to law enforcement data processing. This meets the UK’s obligations to international law enforcement during its time as an EU member state and provides the UK with a system to share data internationally after Brexit is finalised.
  • To update the powers and sanctions available to the Information Commissioner.
  • Strengthen the UK’s competitive position in technological innovation and digital markets by providing a safe framework for data sharing and a robust personal data protection regime.
  • Ensure that police and judicial authorities can continue to exchange information “with international partners in the fight against terrorism and other serious crimes.”

Ultimately, the Bill seeks to modernise the UK’s data protection regime and to secure British citizens’ ability to control the processing and application of their personal information. The Queen’s Speech expressed the Government’s concern not only over law enforcement, but also the digital economy: over 70% of all trade in services are enabled by data flows, making data protection critical to international trade, and in 2015, the digital sector contributed £118 billion to the economy and employed over 1.4 million people across the UK.

Written by Harry Smithson, 22nd June 2017

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round-Up

hacker-1

It’s the weekend before Christmas. Have you done all your Christmas shopping? If you’re shopping online, this is the last weekend you can really do your online shopping and still get everything delivered on time. 

Now you may be bored of hearing it but please be careful, look after your passwords, change them regularly, don’t have devices store your information! Lets start the year without a stranger stealing money from your credit cards and bank accounts!

Yahoo…Again 

This week brings us the news that Yahoo had announced a hack from 2013 – a separate breach to the 500,000 hacked records announced in September. 

Yahoo was investigating the 2014 breach when it uncovered the earlier hack – this time discovering that a billions accounts had been compromised. 

The reputational damage to Yahoo is enormous – a clear pattern of poor security is emerging and if I had an account with Yahoo, I’d be considering changing my provider immediately.  Having said that, though,  how can we be certain that other companies haven’t had similar breaches and we just don’t know about them yet?

The ICO’s deputy commissioner, Simon Entwisle has released a statement saying that they are talking to Yahoo and will try to find out how many UK users have been affected by the latest hack. Their immediate advice is to recommend  strongly that customers change their passwords if they haven’t already.

TalkTalk
An update on the huge TalkTalk hack has been released. One of the hackers, a 17 year old, has admitted to 7 offences relating to the hack and has been given a 12-month rehabilitation order and an £85 fine. He was 
told his excellent computer skills need to be used for the good. 19-year old Daniel Kelley also pleaded guilty. He has been told that a jail sentence is inevitable, and has been released on bail prior to sentencing in March.

Uber
Uber has come under fire after an ex-worker claimed that staff could track fares of celebrities, politicians and even ex-partners. If that’s true, it’s lucky for me I’ve only ever used it in Australia where no exes live and unfortunately I’m not yet a celeb!

Uber released a statement to the Standard stating that the claims made by Mr Spangenberg are “absolutely not true … we have hundreds of security and privacy experts working round the clock  to protect our data … all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.” Uber also makes it clear that access to personal data is limited to approved workers who may only access the data they need in order to perform their job function. 

Lionhead Studio just as bad as ‘Trolls”?
It has been released this week at a BAFTA event that a teenager targeted Sam van Tilburgh and his team, back in 2003, when they were creating the game Fable. The teen released a screen shot of the hero stabbing a child in the head – something no one was expecting to see. 

Rather than go through official routes, Tilburgh and team decided adopt an unconventional aporiach. They were able to track the boy’s IP address and let care the teenager. They then ‘acquired’ some of his school work from and published a part of it, with a demand that he stop or they would publish more and tell be his family what he was up to. He did indeed stop.

Tilburgh said Lionhead’s legal team knew nothing of the retaliating hack, and it has taken 13 years for the story to surface! I wonder if there’ll be repercussions.

The National Lottery hit with fine
So it wasn’t so long ago we heard that hackers had attacked The National Lottery (TNL). Today we hear TNL’s operator Camelot has been issued with a fine of £3m because of a fraudulent payout back in 2009. How this happened has not yet been announced but  it sounds as if a ‘deliberately damaged ticket’ was to blame. The prize fund payout is suspected to be around £2.5m but the actual figure has not yet been officially released.

I, for one will continue to buy my lottery tickets. Although The National Lottery has come under fire recently, it has fuelled a whopping £36 billion into good causes such as sports, community and heritage projects. Also imagine if you won.. (legitimately)

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Written by Charlotte Seymour, 17th December 2016