A former worker at an accident repair firm who downloaded and sold the personal data of motorists to nuisance callers has been fined.
[Name, age redacted], of [Location redacted], Greater Manchester, was an employee of Nationwide Accident Repair Services Limited (NARS) when he was found to be accessing suspicious volumes of customer data from a laptop at home outside of work hours.
NARS called in cyber security consultants in November 2016 after large numbers of customers began complaining that they were receiving nuisance calls shortly after engaging its services. Initial enquiries led to suspicions that [Name redacted] was involved and it was decided that his access to the company’s computer systems would be monitored.
During a week that [Name redacted]’s accesses were monitored, he accessed the data of 2,724 customers without his employer’s consent. Customers whose data was accessed subsequently received unsolicited and at times aggressive marketing calls regarding their accidents and they were asked whether they wanted to pursue legal claims.
NARS reported [Name redacted] to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). He made ‘no comment’ in a subsequent interview and declined to identify the person he sold the data to.
The defendant pleaded guilty to unlawfully obtaining data in breach of s55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 when he appeared at Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court. A further charge of unlawfully disclosing data was also admitted and taken into consideration. [Name redacted] was fined £500 and was also ordered to pay £364 costs and a £50 victim surcharge
ICO Criminal Enforcement Manager Mike Shaw said:
“This case serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they can make some quick and easy money selling people’s personal information.
“The consequences can be severe. Not only can it can lead to a day in court and the attendant media coverage, but it can cost a person their job and can damage their future career prospects.”
Notes to Editors
- The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
- The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
- The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
- 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 civil monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000. Criminal prosecutions under s55 of the Data Protection Act can attract an unlimited fine.
- 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.
- Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
- To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns.