A former waste disposal employee who left his job, taking information about previous clients with him, has been prosecuted and fined.

[Name redacted], who worked at Acorn Waste Management Ltd in Shropshire, emailed the details of 957 clients to his personal email address as he was leaving to start a new role at a rival company. The documents contained personal information including the contact details and purchase history of customers and commercially sensitive information.

Appearing at Telford Magistrates’ Court on 26 May, [Name redacted] pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining data and was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act. He was fined £300, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and £405.98 costs.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO said:

“Taking client records that contain personal information to a new job, without permission, is a criminal offence.

“Employees need to be aware that documents containing personal data they have produced or worked on belong to their employer and are not theirs to take with them when they leave. Don’t risk a day in court by being ignorant of the law.”

Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by way of ‘fine only’ in a Magistrates Court or a Crown Court. The ICO continues to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.

 

Notes to editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
    • fairly and lawfully processed;
    • processed for limited purposes;
    • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
    • accurate and up to date;
    • not kept for longer than is necessary;
    • processed in line with your rights;
    • secure; and
    • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  5. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline on 0303 123 1113, or go to ico.org.uk/concerns/.