Private Investigators who tricked companies and public services into handing over personal information have been found guilty of breaking data protection laws. Yet, despite committing thousands of offences in a single year, the individuals will only face a relatively small fine.
This case alone highlights that serious need for our courts to issue much tougher penalties for unlawfully obtaining or disclosing personal information, otherwise these cases will continue to occur. In this case, the court heard that nearly 2000 offences were committed between April 1 2009 and May 12 2010 by investigators working for ICU Investigations Ltd, whose clients include Allianz Insurance Plc, Hove Council, Leeds Building Society and Dee Valley Water.
Currently, unlawfully obtaining personal data is punishable by a fine of up to £5000 in a magistrate’s court, or an unlimited fine at a crown court. Many people will be shocked to learn that people who have been caught illegally accessing other people’s medical records and personal information will face such minimal penalties. We have consistently warned about the vulnerability of our personal information and we support the ICO in wanting to see stiffer penalties introduced for section 55 breaches.