Information Commissioner's Office
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ICO launches investigation into firms sharing sensitive data

Media reports claim pension information and medical details were available for sale

The ICO has confirmed it has launched an investigation into allegations about firms sharing sensitive personal data, including pension details.

A report claimed several companies involved in the cold calling sector appeared to be breaking the law, and the ICO is now making enquiries to establish whether there have been any breaches of the Data Protection Act or Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Responding to claims in Monday’s Daily Mail about pension information, the ICO’s Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley said:

“What the Daily Mail has shown us is very worrying indeed. It suggests a frequent disregard of laws that are in place specifically to protect consumers. We will be launching an investigation immediately.”

“The information we’ve been shown supports the work we’ve been doing to target the shady industry that operates behind the nuisance of cold calls and spam texts.”

“We’re already aware of the potential for a huge spike in the number of scam texts and calls linked to pensions when the law changes in April, and have already taken action against a company that was sending out misleading messages.

“What we’ve seen here confirms those fears. Personal data is such a valuable asset, particularly financial information. The worst case scenario here is this information getting into the wrong hands and being used to target individuals at a critical point in their financial lives.”

The ICO has powers to issue companies with fines of up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches of the Data Protection Act, while it can also pursue criminal prosecutions around unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data.

Steve Eckersley also commented on concerns around the sharing of health information:

“People rightly consider information about their health to be sensitive, and in a recent survey we found that half of people consider it to be extremely sensitive. To think such information could be in the hands of unscrupulous businesses looking to profit from it sends a shiver down the spine. We’ll be looking into the claims made by these companies to consider whether there has been any breach of data protection law.”

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 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  3. The ICO is on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter. Our press office page provides more information for journalists.
  4. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.


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