Which? has issued a stark warning about taking care of personal data following the case of a pensioner who lost £35,000 after his details were sold on hundreds of times.
Widower Samuel Rae’s personal details were passed on to different companies hundreds of times after he forgot to tick a box on a lifestyle survey 21 years ago.
An investigation by the Daily Mail found that the 87-year-old’s data had been passed to charities along with some companies associated with scams.
As a result of the trade in his personal details Mr Rae lost almost £35,000.
Two charities also passed Mr Rae’s details to Best Of and Biotonic – two companies which have faced legal action for tricking older people out of money. Together they scammed Mr Rae out of almost £4,500.
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Shocking loss of control of personal data
The trade in personal data is now big business and is one of the biggest contributors to the everyday menace of nuisance calls.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘It’s shocking how easily people can lose control of their personal data as a result of it being sold on and shared.
‘All organisations should ensure they aren’t confusing or misleading consumers into giving their consent and they should make it easy for people to revoke their permission at any point.’
It’s crucial to be aware when you’re agreeing to share your personal details. Whenever you buy something online, join a mailing list, donate to a charity or enter a competition, you are giving the organisation involved your personal data.
It’s best practice to read any information clearly and make certain you know exactly what you’re signing up to and to know what permissions the boxes you tick give regarding the use of your personal details.
Richard Lloyd added: ‘We urge fundraising charities to act swiftly to implement the recommendations from the official nuisance calls task force chaired by Which? and for the regulators to come down hard on anyone caught breaking the rules.’
Failure to tick a box ‘isn’t consent’
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – which regulates how personal data is used and stored – has launched an investigation and has vowed to act if the law has been broken.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme his office would be investigating and said: ‘If the law has been broken, we will take action.
‘The Data Protection Act is very clear – the very first principle is that your data is only processed fairly and lawfully.
‘A failure to tick a box isn’t consent and it doesn’t give you the right to trade in people’s personal information years after the event.’
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