Spam texters and protecting our data

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has today served monetary penalties totaling £440,000 on two owners of a marketing company which has plagued the public with millions of unlawful spam texts over the past three years.

This is the first time that the ICO has used its power to issue a monetary penalty for a serious breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) since these powers were approved in January 2012.

The investigation under the Data Protection Act into the pair continues, however the only penalties available under that legislation are fines.

Fining these two individuals may sound a serious step, but given they have deliberately sought to exploit people they should be facing jail, not fines that may well end up never being paid. The Government continues to dither about introducing a custodial sentence for breaching the Data Protection Act, despite it already being on the statute book, and this is unacceptable.

People need to know that unlawfully using or trading personal information, whether that being to access private information for gain or to target people with unwanted spam messages will be taken very seriously and a prison sentence is the best deterrent available. We risk a situation where the fines levied by the Information Commissioner become a cost of doing business for the most serious abusers of our personal data.

This action is welcomed, but until the courts can properly punish people with a prison sentence, our privacy will not be as well protected as it should be.