Tag Archives: data protection

GDPR and Accountants

Tax returns onlineGDPR Debate

On Monday, 16th October, Data Compliant’s Victoria Tuffill was invited by AccountancyWeb to join a panel discussion on how GDPR will impact accountants and tax agents.

The other members of the panel were our host, John Stokdyk, Global Editor of AccountingWEB, who kept us all on the straight and narrow, while asking some very pertinent questions; Ian Cooper from Thomson Reuters who gave strong insights into technical solutions; and Dave Tucker from Thompson Jenner LLP, who provided a very useful practitioner viewpoint.

GDPR in General

There is a presumption that every professional body is fully informed of all compliance regulations within their field of expertise.  But the continuing barrage of changes and adjustments to European and British law makes it easy to drop the ball.

GDPR is a typical example.  To quote the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, it’s “The biggest change to data protection law for a generation”. Yet for many accountants – and so many others – it’s only just appearing on the radar.   This means there’s an increasingly limited amount of time to be ready.

GDPR has been 20 years coming, and is intended to bring the law up to date – in terms of new technology, new ways we communicate with each other, and the increasing press coverage and consumer awareness of personal data and how it’s used by professional organisations and others.  GDPR has been law for 17 months now, and it will be enforced from May 2018.

GDPR and Accountants

So what does GDPR mean for accountants in particular?

  • Accountants will have to deal with the fact that it’s designed to give individuals back their own control over their own personal information and strengthens their rights.
  • It increases compliance and record keeping obligations on accountants. GDPR makes it very plain that any firm which processes personal data is obliged to protect that data – for accountants that responsibility is very significant given the nature of the personal data an accountant holds.
  • There are increased enforcement powers – I’m sure everyone’s heard of the maximum fine of E20,000 or 4% of global turnover, whichever is higher. But also, the media have a strong hold on the whole area of data breaches – and often the reputational damage has a far greater impact than the fine.
  • Accountancy firms must know precisely what data they hold and where it’s held so they can they assess the scale of the issue, and be sure to comply with the demands of GDPR.

The video covers key points for practitioners to understand before they can prepare for compliance, and summarises some initial steps they should take today to prepare their firms.

The other members of the panel were our host, John Stokdyk, Global Editor of AccountingWEB, who kept us all on the straight and narrow, while asking some very pertinent questions; Ian Cooper from Thomson Reuters who gave strong insights into technical solutions; and Dave Tucker from Thompson Jenner LLP, who provided a very useful practitioner viewpoint.

The session can be found here:  Practice Excellence Live 2017:  GDPR.

It is a 45 minute video, so for those with limited time, I have broken down the areas covered into bite-size chunks:

video accountants timingsData Compliant is working with its clients to help them prepare for GDPR, so if you are concerned about how GDPR will affect your firm or business, feel free to give us a call and have a chat on 01787 277742 or email dc@datacompliant.co.uk if you’d like more information.

 

 

 

Victoria Tuffill  19th October, 2017

 

 

 

Weekly Roundup: lack of data protection budgeting among UK businesses; international resolution to secure transparency among subcontractors; fine for ex-council worker

1 in 5 UK businesses have no data protection budget – compared to 4 in 5 local authorities 

GDPR Budget

A report by international email management company Mimecast states that a fifth of surveyed UK businesses do not have a specific budget dedicated to information security or data protection – a source of great concern ahead of the stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

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Over 80% of councils were found to have no funding towards meeting mandatory GDPR requirements

This reinforces the concerns over the information provided in response to a FOI  request by M-Files Corporation in July, which found that four out of five councils had, at that time, yet to allocate funding towards meeting the new requirements of the GDPR.  That research also found that 56% of local authorities contacted had still not appointed a data protection officer despite this being mandated by GDPR.

That such a substantial proportion of businesses have no explicit budgetary or financial commitment to combatting cybercrime and personal data abuse may be particularly unwelcome news to proponents and enforcers of the new GDPR. The Information Commissioner’s Office, the independent data protection authority, has been working hard over the last year to publicise and prepare British organisations for the impending legislation.

The lack of data protection budgeting is compounded by Mimecast’s findings that many UK businesses may not be monitoring their data efficiently. For instance, 15% of the surveyed organisations stated that they did not know whether they had suffered a data loss incident during the last year or not. 27% blamed human error for previous losses, which would indicate that a large number of organisations will need to start taking employee data protection and handling training much more seriously.

44% of the surveyed organisations suspect that their email system contains personal sensitive information as defined under the GDPR, but only 17% of them believed that this information could be retrieved immediately. The average amount of hours it would take British organisations to track down sensitive personal information was calculated as 8.

The report suggests that a significant number of organisations are very underprepared for the increased responsibility and accountability demanded by the GDPR. For help and information on preparing for the GDPR, see the Data Compliant main site.

10th International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC 2017) resolves to tackle difficulties of access to information on outsourced public services

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has confirmed a resolution on international action for improving access to information frameworks surrounding contracted-out public services, a system which has seen increased use throughout Europe, and rapid growth in the UK since 2010.

Challenges have been arising for a couple of decades concerning the transparency of information about the “new modes of delivery for public services.” This is often because the analysis of the efficacy of subcontracted services can be rendered difficult when, due to the principle of competition in the private sector, certain information – particularly regarding the production process of public services – can escape public scrutiny on the grounds of the protection of commercial confidentiality.

The International Conference, jointly hosted by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham and Acting Scottish Information Commissioner Margaret Keyse, was attended by Commissioners of 39 jurisdictions from 30 countries and seven continents. The resolution was passed in Manchester on 21st September following dialogue with civil society groups.

The resolution highlights the “challenge of scrutinising public expenditure and the performance of services provided by outsourced contractors” and “the impact on important democratic values such as accountability and transparency and the wider pursuit of the public interest.”

The Conference summarised that the first step to be taken would be the promotion of “global open contracting standards,” presumably as a means of garnering consensus on the importance of transparency in this regard for the benefit of the public, researchers and policy-makers. A conference working group is to be formed to “share practice about different initiatives that have been developed to tackle the issue.”

The event lasted two days and ran with the title: ‘Trust, transparency and progressive information rights.’ Contributions were heard from academics, journalists, freedom of information campaigners and regulators.

Access to information on the grounds of individual rights and the safeguarding of public interests will be strengthened by the provisions of the GDPR. This resolution provides a reminder and opportunity for organisations working as subcontractors to review the ways in which they store and handle data. Transparency and accountability, longer considered in any way contradictory, are key watchwords for the clutch of data protection reforms taking place throughout the world. Many organisations would do well to assess whether they are in a position to meet the standards of good governance and best practice regarding data management, which will soon become a benchmark for consumer trust.

Ex-employee of Leicester City Council fined for stealing vulnerable people’s personal information

The ICO has confirmed the prosecution of an ex-council worker for unlawfully obtaining the personal information of service users of Leicester City Council’s Adult Social Care Department.

vulnerable

Personal data, including medical conditions, care and financial records were “unlawfully” obtained by an ex-council worker

The personal details of vulnerable people were taken without his employer’s consent, and breached the current Data Protection Act 1998. 34 emails containing the personal information of 349 individuals, including sensitive personal data such as medical conditions, care and financial details and records of debt, were sent to a private email address prior to the individual having left the council.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley stated, “Employees need to understand the consequences of taking people’s personal information with them when they leave a job role. It’s illegal and when you’re caught, you will be prosecuted.”

 

Harry Smithson  29th September 2017

 

 

 

Data Compliant News Blog: Cyberattack threatens over 400,000 British consumers, Data Protection Bill 2017 published and fines levied on councils mishandling data

Equifax data breach – hackers may have access to hundreds of thousands of British consumers’ personal details

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating a hack on Equifax, a large credit rating agency based in Atlanta, USA, to find out whether and to what extent the company’s British consumers’ personal details have been obtained by the hackers. The FBI is also said to be monitoring the situation.

The cyberattack, reported earlier this month, occurred in May and July. The company has already admitted that 143 million American customers’ personal details have been obtained by the hackers.

Credit Cards

400,000 UK customers may be affected by Equifax breach

The US information that the hackers may have accessed includes names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and driving licence details, as well as over 200,000 credit card numbers.

The ICO told Equifax that the company must warn British residents of the data breach and inform them of any information relating to them which has been obtained by the cyber attackers. The credit agency promptly issued alerts to the affected Britons, stating however that an ‘identity takeover’ was unlikely.

Britons would do well to be mindful that, once a hacker has  name, date of birth,  email addresses, and telephone numbers, it takes little effort to acquire the missing elements, which is why the ICO has warned members of the public to remain vigilant against unsolicited emails and communications.  They should also be particularly wary of unexpected transactions or activity recorded on their financial statements.

Shares in Equifax saw considerable reductions throughout the week, and two of the company’s senior executives, the Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer have resigned with immediate effect..

The Data Protection Bill 2017, which includes GPDR, has been published

New Law 2

GDPR is included in its entirety in the UK’s Data Protection Bill 2017, now going through Parliament

On 14th September, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published the Data Protection Bill 2017. The Bill has been anticipated since the Queen’s speech in June, in which the government outlined its plan to implement the European-wide data protection game-changer GDPR into British law.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley explains: “The Data Protection Bill will give people more control over their data, support businesses in their use of data, and prepare Britain for Brexit.  In the digital world strong cyber security and data protection go hand in hand. This Bill is a key component of our work to secure personal information online.”

While the Bill inculcates the GDPR, and therefore provides the basis for data-sharing and other adequacy agreements with the EU after Brexit, the government has stated that it managed to negotiate some ‘vital’ and ‘proportionate’ exemptions for the UK.

Some of the exemptions are provided for journalists accessing personal data to expose wrongdoing or for the good of the public; scientific and research organisations such as museums if their work is hindered; anti-doping bodies; financial firms handling personal data on suspicion of terrorist financing; money laundering; and employment where access may be neededs to personal data to fulfil the requirements of employment law.

The second reading of the Bill in Parliament will take place on 10th October, after which a general debate on Brexit and data protection takes place on the 12th.

As yet, there have been few critics of the proposed legislation outside certain industries whose use of big data makes them particularly susceptible to possible data protection breaches and massive fines (£17m or 4% annual global turnover). Some industry leaders have called for exemptions, including the private pension giant Scottish Widows, who claimed GDPR-level regulations would make it impossible for them to contact some of their customers without breaking the law. However, according to the government, 80% of Britons do not believe that they have control over their information online, and the Bill enjoys widespread support at this point. The Shadow Cabinet has yet to offer any official response or criticism.

Islington Council fined £70,000 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fined Islington Council £70,000 for failing to secure 89,000 peoples’ personal information on an online parking ticket system.

Design faults in the Council’s ‘Ticket Viewer’ system, which keeps CCTV images of parking offences, compromised the security of 89,000 peoples’ personal data. Some of this data is under the category of sensitive personal information, e.g. medical details disclosed for the sake of appealing against a parking fine.

Harry Smithson 23rd September 2017

Data Protection Weekly Roundup: GDPR exemption appeals, gambling industry exploitation scandal, cyber attacks and data breaches

Corporate pensions company Scottish Widows to lobby for specific exemptions from the General Data Protection Regulation ahead of EU initiative’s May 2018 introduction.

Pensions

Scottish Widows seeks derogations in relation to communicating with its customers in order to “bring people to better outcomes.”

The Lloyds Banking Group subsidiary Scottish Widows, the 202-year old life, pensions and investment company based in Edinburgh, has called for derogations from the GDPR.

A great deal has been written across the Internet about the impending GDPR, and much of the information available is contradictory. In fact many organisations and companies have been at pains to work out what exactly will be expected of them come May 2018. While it is true that the GDPR will substantially increase policy enforcers’ remits for penalising breaches of data protection law, the decontextualized figure of monetary penalties reaching €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover – while accurate in severe cases – has become something of a tub-thump for critics of the regulation.

Nevertheless, the GDPR is the most ambitious and widescale attempt to secure individual privacy rights in a proliferating global information economy to date, and organisations should be preparing for compliance. But the tangible benefits from consumer and investor trust provided by data compliance should always be kept in sight. There is more information about the GDPR on this blog and the Data Compliant main site.

Certain sectors will feel the effects of GDPR – in terms of the scale of work to prepare for compliance – more than others. It is perhaps understandable, therefore, why Scottish Widows, whose pension schemes may often be supplemented by semi-regular advice and contact, would seek derogations from the GDPR’s tightened conditions for proving consent to specific types of communications. Since the manner in which consent to communicate with their customers was acquired by Scottish Widows will not be recognised under the new laws, the company points out that “in future we will not be able to speak to old customers we are currently allowed to speak to.”

Scottish Widows’ head of policy, pensions and investments Peter Glancy’s central claim is that “GDPR means we can’t do a lot of things that you might want to be able to do to bring people to better outcomes.”

Article 23 of the GDPR enables legislators to provide derogations in certain circumstances. The Home Office and Department of Health for instance have specific derogations so as not to interfere with the safeguarding of public health and security. Scottish Widows cite the Treasury’s and DWP’s encouragement of increased pension savings, and so it may well be that the company plans to lobby for specific exemptions on the grounds that, as it stands, the GDPR may put pressure on the safeguarding of the public’s “economic or financial interests.”

Profiling low income workers and vulnerable people for marketing purposes in gambling industry provokes outrage and renewed calls for reform.

gambling

The ICO penalised charities  for “wealth profiling”. Gambling companies are also “wealth profiling” in reverse – to target people on low incomes who can ill afford to play

If doubts remain that the systematic misuse of personal data demands tougher data protection regulations, these may be dispelled by revelations that the gambling industry has been using third party affiliates to harvest data so that online casinos and bookmakers can target people on low incomes and former betting addicts.

An increase in the cost of gambling ads has prompted the industry to adopt more aggressive marketing and profiling with the use of data analysis. An investigation by the Guardian including interviews with industry and ex-industry insiders describes a system whereby data providers or ‘data houses’ collect information on age, income, debt, credit information and insurance details. This information is then passed on to betting affiliates, who in turn refer customers to online bookmakers for a fee. This helps the affiliates and the gambling firms tailor their marketing to people on low incomes, who, according to a digital marketer, “were among the most successfully targeted segments.”

The data is procured through various prize and raffle sites that prompt participants to divulge personal information after a lengthy terms and conditions that marketers in the industry suspect serves only to obscure to many users how and where the data will be transferred and used.

This practice, which enables ex-addicts to be tempted back into gambling by the offer of free bets, has been described as extremely effective. In November last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) targeted more than 400 companies after allegations the betting industry was sending spam texts (a misuse of personal data). But it is not mentioned that any official measures were taken after the investigations, which might have included such actions as a fine of £500,000 under the current regulations. Gambling companies are regulated by the slightly separate Gambling Commission, who seek to ensure responsible marketing and practice. But under the GDPR it may well be that the ICO would have licence to take a much stronger stance against the industry’s entrenched abuse of personal information to encourage problem gambling.

Latest ransomware attack on health institution affects Scottish health board, NHS Lanarkshire.

According to the board, a new variant of the malware Bitpaymer, different to the infamous global WannaCry malware, infected its network and led to some appointment and procedure cancellations. Investigations are ongoing into how the malware managed to infect the system without detection.

Complete defence against ransomware attacks is problematic for the NHS because certain vital life-saving machinery and equipment could be disturbed or rendered dysfunctional if the NHS network is changed too dramatically (i.e. tweaked to improve anti-virus protection).

A spokesman for the board’s IT department told the BBC, “Our security software and systems were up to date with the latest signature files, but as this was a new malware variant the latest security software was unable to detect it. Following analysis of the malware our security providers issued an updated signature so that this variant can now be detected and blocked.”

Catching the hackers in the act

Hackers

Attacks on newly-set up online servers start within just over one hour, and are then subjected to “constant” assault.

According to an experiment conducted by the BBC, cyber-criminals start attacking newly set-up online servers about an hour after they are switched on.

The BBC asked a security company, Cybereason, to carry out to judge the scale and calibre of cyber-attacks that firms face every day.   A “honeypot” was then set up, in which servers were given real, public IP addresses and other identifying information that announced their online presence, each was configured to resemble, superficially at least, a legitimate server.  Each server could accept requests for webpages, file transfers and secure networking, and was accessible online for about 170 hours.

They found that that automated attack tools scanned such servers about 71 minutes after they were set up online, trying to find areas they could exploit.  Once the machines had been found by the bots, they were subjected to a “constant” assault by the attack tools.

Vulnerable people’s personal information exposed online for five years

Vulnerable customers

Vulnerable customers’ personal data needs significant care to protect the individuals and their homes from harm

Nottinghamshire County Council has been fined £70,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office for posting genders, addresses, postcodes and care needs of elderly and disabled people in an online directory – without basic security or access restrictions such as a basic login requiring username or password.  The data also included details of the individuals’ care needs, the number of home visits per day and whether they were or had been in hospital.  Though names were not included on the portal, it would have taken very little effort to identify the individuals from their addresses and genders.

This breach was discovered when a member of the public was able to access and view the data without any need to login, and was concerned that it could enable criminals to target vulnerable people – especially as such criminals would be aware that the home would be empty if the occupant was in hospital.

The ICO’s Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley, stated that there was no good reason for the council to have overlooked the need to put robust measures in place to protect the data – the council had financial and staffing resources available. He described the breach as “serious and prolonged” and “totally unacceptable and inexcusable.”

The “Home Care Allocation System” (HCAS) online portal was launched in July 2011, to allow social care providers to confirm that they had capacity to support a particular service user.  The breach was reported in June 2016, and by this time the HCAS system contained a directory of 81 service users. It is understood that the data of 3,000 people had been posted in the five years the system was online.

Not surprisingly, the Council offered no mitigation to the ICO.  This is a typical example of where a Data Privacy Impact Assessement will be mandated under GDPR.

Harry Smithson, 6th September 2017

Data Compliant GDPR panic

GDPR – panic … or not?

myth or fact

GDPR – don’t get bogged down by fear-mongering and myth

GDPR is beset with myth, rumour, and so-called experts. The amount of confusion and misinformation provided is incredibly detrimental. And this is largely because many organisations and individuals who are trying to promote their services are using fear tactics to do so.

But they’re missing the point.

We have a Data Protection Act currently in place, and Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations to support it.  Any organisation which is ignoring the current data protection legislation has every reason to panic about GDPR. Ignorance is no excuse.  And they won’t be able to get away with ignoring GDPR willfully just because they consider data protection an inconvenient restriction preventing them taking unethical actions to make more money.

On the other hand, organisations who conform to the current legislation have a head-start when addressing how to comply with the new regulation.

GDPR – a simple summary

At its simplest, GDPR is a long-overdue evolution which is primarily about all organisations (whether data controllers or data processors):

  1. putting the individual first
  2. being held accountable for protecting that individual’s data

At the same time, GDPR addresses the vast changes to the data landscape since the original data protection legislation of the 1990s:

  • it takes account of technological advances – bear in mind, there was barely an internet in the early ’90s!
  • it seeks to protect EU citizens from  misuse of their personal data wherever that data is processed
  • it addresses (at least in part) the disparity in data protection legislation throughout the EU and its members

GDPR increases both compliance obligations on the part of organisations, and enforcement powers on the part of the regulator.

Compliance Obligations:  The principle of Accountability puts a heavy administrative burden on data controllers and data processors.  Robust record-keeping in relation to all data processing is essential; evidenced decisions around data processing will be critical.

Enforcement Powers:  Yes, there are massive fines for non-compliance.  And yes, they will go up to £20,000,000 or 4% of global turnover.  But is that really the key headline?

GDPR’s Key Message:  Put the Individual First

Rights human rights

As GDPR comes closer, individuals are going to become increasingly aware of their rights – new and old

All organisations who process personal data need to understand that individuals must be treated fairly, and have, under GDPR, greater rights than before.  This means that organisations need to be transparent about their data processing activity, and take full responsibility for protecting the personal or personally identifiable data they process.

What does that mean in practice?

  • Tell the individuals what you intend to do with their data – and make it absolutely plain what you mean
  • Explain that there’s a value exchange – by all means help them understand the benefits to providing the data and allowing the processing – but don’t tell lies, and don’t mislead them
  • If you don’t want to tell them what you’re doing … you probably shouldn’t be doing it
  • If you need their consent, make sure you obtain it fairly, with simple messaging and utter clarity around precisely what it is to which they are consenting
  • Tell them all their rights (including the right to withdraw consent; to object to processing where relevant; to be provided with all the information you hold about them, to be forgotten, etc)
  • Always balance your rights as an organisation against their rights as an individual

Look out for your Reputation

shame

Never underestimate the reputational damage caused by a data breach

The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, states clearly that, while the ICO has heavy-weight power to levy massive fines, “we intend to use those powers proportionately and judiciously”.  So the ICO may issue warnings, reprimands, corrective orders and fines, but that could be the least of your worries.

Something that tends to be overlooked when talking about penalties of non-compliance is reputational damage.  All the ICO’s sanctions (from warnings to fines) are published on the ICO website.  And the press loves nothing more than a nice, juicy data breach.

So even if no fine is levied, reputations will suffer.  At worst, customers will be lost.  Shareholders will lose confidence.  Revenues will decline.  Board members will lose their jobs.  And, to quote Denham again, “You can’t insure against that.”

Victoria Tuffill     18th August 2017

Data Compliant advises on GDPR compliance – if you’d like more information, please call 01787 277742 or email dc@datacompliant.co.uk

 

Data Protection Weekly Round-up: New Data Protection Bill; the impact of Brexit; £150k fines for failure to apply TPS

This week there’s been much in the media about the UK’s upcoming new Data Protection Bill.  Unfortunately some of the reporting has been unclear, providing very woolly information on some of the new rights of individuals, and the circumstances they do – or do not – apply.  Nonetheless, the main story is that the Data Protection Act will be replaced and that it will include the requirements of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In other news, the ICO has taken further action against companies who fail to follow the current Data Protection Act and PECR regulations.  This week the spotlight falls on companies who fail to screen their call lists against TPS.  This illegal behaviour has resulted in fines of £150,000 for the week.

Data Protection Bill set to be read out in Parliament in September

Queen

As promised in the Queen’s Speech, GDPR will become part of the UK’s new data protection law. The process begins next month  in Parliament.

The government has said that it plans to give the Data Protection Bill, announced in the Queen’s speech in June, an airing in Parliament at some point next month. This has been confirmed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (which continues to be officially abbreviated as DCMS, despite the recent addition of ‘Digital’).

The new Bill will replace the existing Data Protection Act 1998 and one of its chief aims is to implement the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  The UK must adhere to GDPR during its time as a member state and almost certainly beyond – albeit under different legal provisions. The manner in which this EU initiative could apply in the UK after a finalised Brexit is discussed in the next story.

This first reading of the Bill next month is largely a formality. It gives lawmakers, consultants and interested parties a chance to inform themselves and gather the information they need before a second reading takes place, during which a parliamentary debate is properly staged.

Last month, Germany became the first EU member state to approve its data protection legislation meeting the requirements of GDPR – the German Federal Data Protection Act (‘Bundesdatenschutzgesetz‘).

House of Lords publishes a report on the EU data protection package

Responding to the government’s plans outlined in a White Paper on The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, the House of Lords has reviewed various options regarding the data protection policy aspect of this new relationship in a report published on 18th July.

Since the government has stated that it wants to “maintain unhindered and uninterrupted data flows with the EU post-Brexit,” the House of Lords has assessed this commitment with a view to providing a more detailed set of practical objectives.

EU

For the UK to continue trading with EU citizens post-Brexit, GDPR or its equivalent will  need to apply.

The report summarises that the UK has two feasible options if it wants to continue uninterrupted data flow with the EU, which is now a lynchpin in our service-driven economy. There will be a transitional period of adopting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Police and Criminal Justice Directive (PCJ) while the UK remains an EU Member State, regulations which the government plans to implement with the aforementioned new Data Protection Bill. But the report states that after Brexit, the UK will either have to pursue an ‘adequacy decision’ from the European Commission, “certifying that [the UK] provides a standard of protection which is ‘essentially equivalent’ to EU data protection standards,” or else individual data controllers will have to implement their own data protection safeguards, which would “include tools such as Standard Contractual Clauses, and Binding Corporate Rules.”

The report favours the former, that is, adequacy decisions conferred to the UK as a third state in its relation to the EU, provided under Articles 45 and 36 of the GDPR and PCJ respectively. The report states that the Lords were “persuaded by the Information Commissioner’s view that the UK is so heavily integrated with the EU – three quarters of the UK’s cross-border data flows are with EU countries – that it would be difficult for the UK to get by without an adequacy arrangement.”

The report concludes that there is no prospect of a clean break, since the UK will have to continue to update its domestic data protection policies to remain aligned to the standards of EU data protection in the event of changing regulations – that is, if the UK wants the seamless transfer of data with EU countries that is regarded as crucial to the digital economy and the UK’s competitive position in the modern globalised market.

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) levies £150,000 of fines for nuisance calls

The ICO has issued official warnings, “reminding companies making direct marketing calls that people registered with the Telephone Preference Service are ‘off-limits,’” after two Bradford-based firms were fined a total of £150,000 for flouting this preference.

fined 150000
Calling consumers without consent is illegal unless you run the files against TPS.

HPAS Ltd (t/a Safestyle UK) and Laura Anderson Ltd (t/a Virgo Home Improvements) have been fined £70,000 and £80,000 respectively for making illegal nuisance calls to people on the TPS register. Both firms have been issued enforcement notices and will face court action if the practice continues.

The ICO received 264 complaints about Virgo over 20 months (despite repeated warnings and formal monitoring), and 440 complaints about the latter in 19 months.  Virgo Home Improvements had already been fined £33,000 just over a year ago, bringing their total fines for making nuisance calls up to £113,000.

One complaint about Safestyle quoted by the ICO read, “this harassment has been going on for over five years now. I want it to stop.” Members of the public are becoming increasingly aware of data protection policy, and the prospect of new legislation that will crack down on aggravating breaches such as these will be welcomed by many.

Written by Harry Smithson, 8th August 2017

http://www.datacompliant.co.uk

Data Protection Weekly Round-up: PECR breaches, ransomware research and Facebook on security

Two large corporations fined for PECR breaches; Google study reveals ransomware profits, and Facebook urges people-led changes to security methodology

In the blog below, you’ll note how the Information Commissioner’s Office is taking a hard-line approach to PECR.  If an organisation uses electronic channels to re-permission its database in time for GDPR enforcement in May 2018, it must comply with PECR. Moneysupermarket.com is the latest in a series of big names to fall foul of email regulations.

You’ll also see an analysis of ransomware profitability, which helps explain its continued growth;   the final story summarises Facebook’s views on data security.

The ICO issues fines amounting to £160,000 for Provident Personal Credit and Moneysupermarket.com

The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued civil monetary penalties of £80,000 each for Provident Personal Credit, a Bradford-based sub-prime lender, and Moneysupermarket.com, a leading brand comparison site, on the 17th and 20th of July respectively. In both cases the fine was  for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR).

Text confused person

Unsolicited texts annoy prospects and customers 

Quick-loan credit firm Provident Personal Credit, a brand operated by Provident Financial, was fined £80,000 for sending out nearly 1 million nuisance text messages in the space of 6 months.

The company employed a third party affiliate to send the unsolicited marketing for loans provided by a sister brand, Satsuma Loans.

Text messages may not be sent if the recipients have not consented to receiving marketing texts, so this activity was in breach of PECR.

emails out of laptop

Beware of sending “service” emails which are actually “marketing” emails

A few days later, the price and brand comparison website Moneysupermarket.com was fined for sending 7.1 million emails over 10 days updating customers with its Terms and Conditions, despite these customers having explicitly opted-out of receiving this type of email. This offence is almost identical to the breaches for which Morrison’s, Honda and Flybe were fined last month.

One of the key problems was the section “Preference Centre Update” which said: “We hold an e-mail address for you which means we could be sending you personalised news, products and promotions. You’ve told us in the past you prefer not to receive these. If you’d like to reconsider, simply click the following link to start receiving our e-mails.”

In a previous blog, we explained the ambiguity between ‘service’ emails and ‘marketing’ emails when implicitly emailing or communicating marketing content to individuals who have opted out. This is in breach of regulations (which will only get stricter after the General Data Protection Legislation comes into force in May 2018).

Google research leads to fears of proliferating ransomware

ransomware 2

Ransomware encrypts and scrambles victims’ computerised files. The files will not be decrypted until after a ransom is paid

Research carried out by Elie Bursztein, Kylie McRoberts and Luca Invernizzi from Google has found that cyber-thieves have made $25m (£19m) in the last two years through the use of ransomware. The research suggests that this type of malware regularly makes more than $1m (£761,500) for its creators.

The two strains of ransomware that have seen the most success are ‘Locky’ and ‘Cerber,’ which have collected $7.8m (£5.9m) and $6.9m (£5.2) respectively. But fears have arisen that due to the profitability of ransomware, new and more expansive variants will emerge amid the increasingly competitive, aggressive and “fast-moving” market for cybercrime weaponry. Mr Burszstein warns that ‘SamSam’ and ‘Spora’ are variants that seem to be gaining traction.

The research collected reports from victims of ransomware but also from an experiment wherein thousands of ‘synthetic’ virtual victims were created online. Mr Bursztein and his colleagues then monitored the network traffic generated by these fake victims to study the movement of money. More than 95% of Bitcoin payments (the preferred currency for ransom payments) were cashed out via Russia’s BTC-e exchange.

The lucrative nature of ransomware has led the Google researchers to conclude that it is “here to stay” and may well proliferate among the many syndicates and crime networks around the world. At a talk at the Black Hat conference, one of the world’s largest information security events, Mr Bursztein warned, “it’s no longer a game reserved for tech-savvy criminals, it’s for almost anyone.”

Facebook’s security boss argues that the industry should change its approach

facebook

Hitting the data security balance: user issues vs. tech solutions 

At a talk at this year’s Black Hat, Facebook’s Chief Information Security Officer, Alex Stamos, has criticised the information security industry’s over-prioritisation of technology over people.

Advocating a ‘people-centric’ approach to information security, Mr Stamos stated his belief that most security professionals were too focused on complex ‘stunt’ hacks involving large corporations and state organisations, and tended to ignore problems that the majority of technology users face.

He told the attendees, “we have perfected the art of finding problems without fixing real-world issues. We focus too much on complexity, not harm.”

He explained that most Facebook users are not being targeted by spies or nation states, and that their loss of control over their information are from simple causes with simple solutions in which, he claims, the security industry takes no interest. He criticised the industry in general for lacking ‘empathy’ with less tech-savvy people, citing the often-expressed thought by security professionals that there would be fewer breaches and data losses if people were perfect.

He used the example of the widespread criticism from cyber experts that the security team for Facebook subsidiary Whatsapp faced after their decision to use ‘end-to-end’ encryption for the popular messaging app, which was heralded by some as sacrificing security for the sake of usability. Such a sacrifice did not manifest, but Mr Stamos was keen to emphasise the fact that it simply did not occur to security experts that usability was worth pursuing.

Mr Stamos advocated the diversification of the industry by working with less technically minded people who could empathise with the imperfections of tech-users, thus helping to develop more straightforward tools and services that would benefit a larger amount of people.

Facebook has also committed half a million dollars to fund a new project to secure election campaigns from cyber attack.  The initiative will be run by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, a think-tank affiliated to Harvard University.  This is timely, given the scandals around the cyber- attack on French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent election campaign, and the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee during the US elections last year.

If you have any data privacy compliance, governance or security concerns which you’d like to discuss with Data Compliant, please email dc@datacompliant.co.uk.

Harry Smithson   20th July 2017