Tag Archives: privacy

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

Phishing ..Christmas..a time for taking?

phishing-alertThere I was, at my desk on Monday morning, preoccupied with getting everything done before the Christmas break, and doing about 3 things at once (or trying to).  An email hit my inbox with the subject “your account information has been changed”.  Because I regularly update all my passwords, I’m used to these kinds of emails arriving from different companies – sometimes to remind me that I’ve logged in on this or that device, or to tell me that my password has been changed, and to check that I the person who actually changed it.

As I hadn’t updated any passwords for a couple of days, I was rather intrigued to see who had sent the email, and I immediately  opened it.  It was from Apple to say I’d added an email as a rescue email to my Apple ID.

apple-email

Well that sounded wrong, so I clicked on the link to ‘Verify Now’ and was taken to a page that looked pretty legitimate.

apple-email-link

 

I thought I should see what was actually going on, so I logged in to my Apple ID using my previous password.  If I had been in any doubt, the fact that it accepted my out-of-date password made it very clear that this was a scam.

The site asked me to continue inputting my data.  At the top of the pages are my name and address details.  It’s also, for the first time, telling me that my account is suspended – always a hacker’s trick to get you worried and filling in information too quickly to think about what you’re actually doing.

apple-verify-1

Then the site starts to request credit card details and bank details …

apple-verify-2

And finally my date of birth so they can steal my identity, and a mobile number so that they can send me scam texts.

apple-verify-3

I know seven other people who received exactly the same email. And it’s just too easy to fall for, so any number of people could be waking up tomorrow with their identity stolen, and bank account and credit cards stripped of all money or credit.

With that in mind, here are some things to look out for in phishy (see what I did there) emails:

  1. Check the email address the email came from! If it looks wrong – it probably is!
  2. Hover your mouse over the links in the email to see where they take you. If this email had really been Apple it would have gone to an https:\\ address, at apple.co.uk
  3. Check grammatical errors in the text of the letter

Now if you do fall for an email as well executed as this, and if I’m completely honest, I’m shocked at how close to a real Apple email and website they looked, make sure you notify your bank and credit card companies immediately.  Change all of your passwords as soon as possible because if you use the same log in combination for any other accounts those could be targeted next.

Christmas has always been a time for giving.  Now it’s become the prime time for taking.

charlotte-seymour-2016

 

Written by Charlotte Seymour, 22nd December 2016

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

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Insider Threats – Charlotte’s View

Something that is being spoken about more and more (due to the unfortunate higher frequency) is insider threat. It’s in the news an awful lot more than it ever used to be.

Do you remember the auditor of Morrisons who released a spreadsheet detailing just shy of 100,000 members of staff’s (very) personal details? He did end up getting jailed for 8 years but I heard a saying recently, it’s not a digital footprint you leave it’s more of a digital tattoo. Even two years after the incident Morrisons is still suffering the effects.

Now obviously that was what you would call a malicious breach. It does unfortunately happen, but there are ways for you to protect your company against this. Firstly we here at Data Compliant believe that if you have detailed joiner processes in place (i.e. thorough screening and references and criminal checks where appropriate), ongoing appraisals with staff and good leaver processes you can minimise your risk.

Other ways of insider breaches occurring, and much more likely in my opinion, are negligence, carelessness and genuine accidents. Did you know that over 50% of data breaches are cause by staff error? This may be because staff do not follow company procedures correctly and open up pathways for hackers. Or it could be that your staff are tricked into handing over information that they shouldn’t.

Your staff could be your company’s weakest point in relation to protecting it’s personal and confidential data. But you can take simple steps to minimise this risk by training your staff in data protection.

Online training has some big advantages for businesses, it’s a quick, efficient and relatively inexpensive way of training large numbers of employees while “taking them out of the business” for the least possible time.

The risk of breaches isn’t just your business’ reputation, or even a hefty fine from the ICO but as mentioned before, also a criminal conviction. Now that is a lot to risk.

If you’re interested in online training have a look at this video.

 

charlotte

Written by Charlotte Seymour, November 2016

 

Data Compliance October Round-up

What’s happening in Europe … and beyond?iStock_000025602036Small

Update 28.10.13

The new date for implementation of a proposed new data protection regulation (DPR) – has been pushed back to “by 2015”, thanks in part to David Cameron’s efforts to protect the interests of UK business.  Germany were also supportive though Merkel’s reasoning was slightly different “… to ensure that it can reconcile the existing rights of its citizens.”

23.10.13

On 21st October, 2013, the European Parliament approved its Compromise Text of the proposed EU General Data Protection Regulation.  Still a long way from being complete, but the latest from Europe is:

1. Pseudonymous data now has its own definition – currently “personal data that cannot be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of additional information, as long as such additional information is kept separately and subject to technical and organisational measures to ensure non-attribution”.

2. Data Protection Officers:  a data controller or processor must appoint a Data Protection Officer when processing personal data relation to over 5,000 data subjects in any consecutive 12-month period.  Also where the core processing activities relate to processing location data, children’s data, sensitive personal data, or employees in large scale filing systems.

3.  A new concept has been introduced – a European Data Protection Seal -a certification process which allows international data transfers outside the EEA to recipients that also hold a Seal.

4.  Right to erasure:  the right of data subjects to have their personal data erased if requested is still in the draft (originally “right to be forgotten”).  And it’s been strengthened – if the data subject asks a controller to erase his data, the company should also forward the request to others where the data is replicated.

Pulling NSA’s teeth …

Spheres of monitors with eyeballs in a curved field of blue digiThe Compromise text had some other changes, including new data protection rules designed to curb America’s spying activities.  The intention is to make US secret court orders powerless, and to force companies based outside the EU, like Google and Facebook, to comply with European data protection laws if they operate in Europe.  Powers to levy fines running into billions of Euros are being made available to discourage violation of the new rules.

For example, if a third country’s court, tribunal or other administrative authority requests a company (such as a social network or cloud provider) to disclose personal data processed in the EU, that company must notify the data protection authority and obtain their authorisation before any such data transfer can be made.

This step is largely due to Edward Snowden’s information about the American companies, platforms and social networking sites which have been forced to share substantial volumes of EU citizens’ personal online data (from emails and phone calls to video chats and web searches) with the National Security Agency (the US intelligence organisation which collects, monitors, decodes, translates and analyses foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information and data).

The third country issue has been ongoing since January 2012, when the proposed reform to the law was dropped after intense US lobbying.  It now seems clear that the EU has had enough, particularly since the revelations that the NSA systems collected – in the single month from February 8th to March 8th – 24.8 billion telephone data and 97.1 billion computer data from across the globe – including UK, Germany and France.

In addition the French are aggrieved that, from December 2012 to January 2013, the NSA were reported to have made 70.3 million recordings of French individuals’ telephone data.

While the NSA is known to collect and store all phone records of all American citizens, their profligate global approach to privacy is clearly unacceptable, and Europe has taken steps to limit their – and other agencies and countries’ – powers.

So now it’s just the simple matter of balancing the need to combat terrorism versus people’s protection of the rights to privacy.  Which makes it hardly surprising that this legislation is taking so long with a record-breaking 4,000 amendments so far.  It is thought that there is a less than 50% chance of the new regulations going through in the time-frame, though final legislation is still anticipated before the European elections in May 2014.

India’s Draft Privacy Protection Bill

Abstract internet security illustrationThe issue of data protection in India has been generated for a number of reasons – not least, Europe’s concerns given the sheer volume of personal data that is transferred to India.  Also, within India itself, there is concern among Indian citizens in relation to the combination of the use of personal identifiers (including biometric data) and extensive individual profiles.

India has been holding a set of roundtable talks since April 2013, with the goal of generating recommendations for a privacy regulatory framework.  The last of those talks was held on October 19th between the Center for Internet and Society, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Data Security Council of India. Christopher Graham, the UK Information Commissioner, was among the speakers.

We’ll send more updates as they come through – in the meantime, if you have any concerns over how these or the existing DPA and PECR regulations might affect your business, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Victoria Tuffill
01787 277742
victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
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Michelle Evans
01206 392909
michelle@tuffillverner.co.uk