Wednesday 28 November 2012

Text Spammings, Finally an ICO Fine of Merit

Today the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) announced a record fine of £440,000 against the owners of Tetrus Telecoms. The ICO stated the Manchester based Tetrus Telecoms, were responsible for sending millions of unsolicited text messages using unregistered SIM cards, and personal data gained illegally.  Tetrus Telecoms were said to be sending 840,000 spam text messages a day promoting PPI claims and accident compensation claims, in the hope of earning a referral fee should any of the recipients respond. These referral fees netted the text spammers £8,000 a day. This is a lot of easy money, but it does mean 99.9% of those receiving the texts didn't reply, and so didn't want the text message in the first place.
Who hasn't had a PPI Text Message this year?

Finally the ICO dishes out a fine which is close to their maximum amount of £500K. Often criticised as a toothless tiger, the ICO fines are really hit and miss, however this £440K fine is the highest amount levied to date.

Finally a significant fine amount from the ICO against the owners of a private company. I don't agree with the past ICO six figure fines against public sector organisations, such as local authorities and the NHS, as in affect the ICO are taking money out of the public purse. Not great especially in these tough economic times, as these fines hit budgets, which in turn hit the provision public services. Negative publicity and pressure on organisation leaders, are the more appropriate method in dealing with publicly funded organisations that breach the Data Protection Act (DPA). Furthermore public sector fines appear not to be too much of a deterrent, as the NHS and local authorities continue to breach the DPA regularly  Private business are motivated by financial penalties hitting their profit margins, but the private sector do not have to disclose DPA breaches to the ICO. Also if a business volunteers for an ICO audit, they appear to be handed a "get out of jail free card" for any data breaches they knowingly have incurred. Businesses Consider Abusing ICO Data Breach Fine ‘Loophole’

ICO: Inconsistent enforcement action

Finally the ICO gets tough with text spammers, an issue which the vast majority of the UK public actually do really care about. Who doesn't hate being bombarded with streams of PPI text messages on our mobiles? Most people have received loads of these unwanted texts this year, wondering why such messages are allowed to be sent.  But it does beg the question, why has it taken the ICO so long to deal with text spamming, and what about phone call and email spamming which are equally rife. There are many other UK based illegal spamming operations in play, isn't it in the public interest to have these tackled as well?

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