Category Archives: UK Data News

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

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

National Lottery customers hacked. But who handed over the key?

master-key

Another day … another hack. Such events are inescapably becoming almost daily news. The endless catalogue of everyday cyber crime, ranging from hacking, ransom attacks, bullying, breaches, theft and fraud, simply underlines that any crime that can be committed in our physical world can – and is – equally being perpetrated in cyber space.

Given that such attacks and breaches are making the headlines almost daily, it baffles me that companies and customers (that’s us by the way) don’t make a greater effort to protect themselves.

Camelot, The National Lottery’s operator, discovered this latest breach on Sunday and went public on Wednesday morning. Camelot says that only 26,500 of the 9.5 million registered user accounts were compromised, and that there has only been activity on just under 50 of the infiltrated accounts. They have confirmed that no money has been removed or added to any of these accounts and that the National Lottery does not hold full debit card or bank account details. The Information Commissioner’s Office says it has launched an investigation.

Camelot insists that the reason for the compromised accounts is because users have been operating the same password for multiple websites. (Sound familiar? Last week’s Deliveroo breach comes to mind).

Quite properly when we hear of a data breach we turn the spotlight onto the companies that we deal with, who are in charge of protecting our information. But it would be no bad thing for us to point the spotlight at ourselves as the other half of the equation. As consumers, we have to take responsibility too.

We have all repeatedly been advised – and frankly, must surely know by now –  it is vital that a different password is used for every website. For as long as we fail to take this basic precaution, these breaches will be possible.  It would seem that we’re no or slow learners.

I don’t know about you, but I have more accounts than I care to think about. A password including capital letters, symbols and numbers is difficult enough to remember for just one account. However with hacks happening more and more frequently it’s made me pull up my socks and change all of my passwords.

I choose not to have my phone or computer store my passwords, because if either device is stolen (or lost) someone will have all my information in the palm of their hand.

It’s time we all realised how vitally important it is to have safe and secure and different passwords for every account we have, especially when cyber criminals are getting wiser and more sophisticated by the minute. A password is a key. So using just one password to access all your websites means that you are effectively handing criminals the master key to all your online activity.

Hint – A password with 12 characters including a few bits and pieces can take over 2 centuries to crack … that’s the one for me!

charlotte-seymour-2016

Written by Charlotte Seymour, 30th November 2016

Data Compliant’s Weekly Round Up

cowboy-round-up-cropped

This week has been a bit hectic when it comes to data breaches and news. We started off with Snoopers’ Charter being passed, then we heard that Deliveroo had been hacked and many of its customers had been paying for someone else’s dinner after passwords were stolen from another business.

We heard of yet another colossal hack – mobile network Three had been infiltrated by 3 hackers dotted all over the country now putting two thirds of the 9,000,000 Three customers at risk. The hackers accessed the upgrade system using an employee log in and were able to intercept the new phones before they reached the customers that the hackers had upgraded. Could this be an insider threat? Although Three can confirm no financial data was appropriated the information that was obtainable were things like names, telephone numbers, addresses and date of birth all of which is classed as personal data in accordance with the Data Protection Act. It’s all very handy data for criminals to steal someone’s identity.

Police are investigating Broxtowe Borough Council after an email containing allegations about someone’s conduct was sent to all staff members (730 people in total) in which they were told about in September. The ICO have said they are not going to take any action.

Hatchimals
Hatchimals are the latest craze with the kids these days and I bet they’re on everyone’s Christmas wish list. For those who don’t know what Hatchimals are, they’re Furby-like toys inside an egg that the child has to nurture until it hatches. Once hatched the toy will learn how to speak from it’s owner – so I’m told by my overly eager nephew. However due to these toys being so popular, scammers are out in force and are taking to social media to encourage loving parents to hand over more than double what these toys are going for. Once the scammers have got the money, the parents are then blocked and never hear from them again. Sometimes over £100 worse off. These toys are out of stock in every retailer that sells children’s toys in the UK so if there is an ad online, on social media, or in an email saying they’re still available and better yet – they’re on sale, don’t be fooled, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday
I would imagine due to it being Black Friday this Friday (25th November) and cyber Monday on the 28th fake adverts and phishing emails are going to be on the rise this week and most of next week too. Although it is sad to think that hackers take to this time of year to steal from loving friends and family to earn themselves a bit of extra money, it does unfortunately happen every year. Now some of these hacks are easy to spot, it just takes a bit of common sense, however they are also getting more and more sophisticated and harder to recognise.

Last year UK consumers spent £2 billion in 24 hours online and in stores on Black Friday and £3.3billion over the whole weekend. Predictions this year are even higher than the last. So if you’re anything like me and are planning to get home from work, make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and do your Black Friday shopping online, here are some hints and tips for you to stay safe this weekend.

  • Make sure the websites you are visiting have https: at the front of the URL. The s actually stands for secure! Who knew?
  • If you receive any emails from your bank, paypal or anything asking you to confirm your payment details with a link to click on to do so, hover your mouse over the link to see what the URL is, if it isn’t the company’s name .com/.co.uk etc it’s a scam.
  • Look at the email address you receive an email from, is that the company’s name?
  • Use strong passwords, and different passwords for each log in (this is how many people got stung with Deliveroo as they used the same password for their account with them and with other websites and apps).
  • Read the websites privacy policy before handing over all of your sensitive information. These are legally binding and have to inform you of what the company plans to do with your data.

I could go on and on but these main 5 steps should keep you fairly safe this weekend. Don’t be put off by the minority of people who do wish to scam you into handing over all of your money. There are some good people (and even better bargains) out there, so happy shopping!

charlotte-seymour-2016
Written by Charlotte Seymour – 25th November 2016.