Data Protection 03/02/15

  • Tivium Ltd (a green deal energy company with a registered office in North London) has been prosecuted for failing to respond to an Information Notice issued by the ICO. The fine was
    £5,000 with a £120 victim surcharge & prosecution costs of £489.85. The company appears to still be trading (apparently based in the North of England) but its website indicates that it is closed to new customers.
  • The ICO has taken enforcement action against high street and online shoe retailer Office [Office Holdings Ltd, based in the City of London] after the personal data of over one million customers was left exposed due to a hacking incident. The reasons for the ICO action were:-

1. The ICO was informed on 29th May 2014 that a member of the public had hacked into an unencrypted historic Office database that was being stored on a legacy server outside the core infrastructure of the current website.
2. This individual had managed to gain potential access to personal data relating to over a million Office customers, including contact details and website passwords. However, the data controller has confirmed that it does not store customers’ bank details, so financial information was not compromised. Moreover, there is no evidence to suggest that the information accessed has been further disclosed or otherwise used.
3. Office explained that there were several technical measures in place to minimise the risk of such an attack, although the hacker managed to bypass these measures to gain access to the legacy servers undetected.
4. Office has also confirmed that whilst penetration tests were carried out on the new websites before migration, only a single such test was completed on the old system, the results of which were not concluded or recorded, due to the legacy system being in the process of being decommissioned.
5. Office has explained that removing the historic customer data from the database before migration to the new system was believed to add complexity and a material risk of data mismatches, operation downtime and customer disruption, so as to put the project at risk.
6. However, Office has since accepted that in hindsight, the risks of removing these details before migration were less than originally thought. As such, it would appear that the retention of this historic data, some of which may now be inaccurate, was over cautious and not strictly required.
7. Amongst other remedial measures taken by Office since the incident, the servers in question have now been decommissioned and a new hosting infrastructure is in place.
8. At the time of the incident, Office’s public facing privacy policy did not contain any specific reference to retention periods and no formal data protection training was provided to staff. Office has since confirmed that both these matters are being addressed and that new policies will be formalised early in 2015.

Electronic Marketing

  • An eye care company has been formally warned by the ICO to stop sending out nuisance text messages or face further action. The ICO has served an enforcement notice on Optical Express (Westfield) Ltd, after over 4,600 people registered concerns between September 2013 and April 2014. The concerns about the unsolicited messages were reported to the mobile networks’ Spam Reporting Service indicating they had not given permission for the company to use their details for marketing [this is a breach of Regulation 22 (2) of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations 2003]. The Glasgow-based business which has branches across the UK had been sending out texts that included details of a competition to win free laser eye surgery.

European Union

  • Pinsent Masons (a UK law firm) has published an article in Out-Law news and guidance entitled “Data Protection Officers – will EU businesses face an obligation to appoint one? The article gives a useful summary of the proposed Rules with regards to these Officers in the EU Data Protection Regulation, giving a good summary of the Commission’s view, the Parliament’s view and the (current) view from the
  • Under the Council’s plans, no organisation would be under an obligation to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) unless required to do so under other EU legislation or the national laws of individual EU member states. Instead, the Council said organisations “may” appoint a DPO and go on to list conditions that organisations electing to appoint a DPO would have to conform to. Many of the conditions are similar to those supported by the Commission and Parliament. They include that the DPO can act independently

Data Protection

  • Pinsent Masons (a UK law firm) has published an article in Out-Law news & guidance entitled “US to create new data breach notification rules”. They reported that the US president Barack Obama had stated that US businesses will be required to notify consumers within 30 days that there has been a breach of the security of their personal data.
  • Pinsent Masons reported that the proposal is part of a package of measures president Obama said are needed “…to protect the identities and privacy of the American people. We’re introducing new legislation to create a single, strong national standard so Americans know when their information has been stolen or misused”
  • Continuing with his Washington speech, president Obama stated; – “Right now, almost every state has a different law on this, and it’s confusing for consumers and it’s confusing for companies – and it’s costly, too, to have to comply with this patchwork of laws. Sometimes, folks don’t even find out their credit card information has been stolen until they see charges on their bill, and then it’s too late. So under the new standard that we’re proposing, companies would have to notify consumers of a breach within 30 days. In addition, we’re proposing to close loopholes in the law so we can go after more criminals who steal and sell the identities of Americans – even when they do it overseas”
  • Clearly this new proposal will apply to Capita plc businesses (that process personal data) that are based in the USA. However, it will be interesting to see if these federal proposals help to ensure that Safe Harbour remains available to EU based businesses to transfer personal data to participating organisations in the USA. The future of Safe Harbour is currently under discussion between the European Commission and the US Department of Commerce.

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February 2, 2015