NEWS22 August 2023

ICO seeks evidence on unauthorised use of data to proposition customers

GDPR Legal News Privacy Retail Technology UK

UK – Almost a third ( 29%) of 18-34 year-olds have received unwanted contact after giving their personal information to a business, according to research commissioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

young woman stressed and upset by text message

The ICO has begun a call for evidence for the public to share their experiences of unwanted contact from so-called ‘text pests’ as it looks to gather evidence of the impact of this illegal use of personal data.

The regulator defined ‘text pests’ as individuals who use personal information, such as a phone number or email address, shared in a business context, for unauthorised ‘romantic’ or sexual propositions – for example, asking a customer out on a date after they ordered a takeaway.

The poll by Savanta also found that while over half ( 56%) correctly believe the practice of using personal information for ‘romantic’ or sexual propositions to be illegal, 9% of the public think it is legal.

Young people are significantly more likely to believe the behaviour to be legal ( 14% of 18-34s compared with 2% of people aged over 55 ). Additionally, men are more likely to think it is legal ( 12%, compared with 5% of women).

Emily Keaney, deputy commissioner, regulatory policy at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “People have the right to order a pizza, or give their email for a receipt, or have shopping delivered, without then being asked for sex or a date a little while later. They have a right to know that when they hand over their personal information, that it will not then be used in ways that they would not be comfortable with.

“There may be, amongst some, an outdated notion that to use someone’s personal details given to you in a business context to ask them out is romantic or charming. Put quite simply, it is not – it is against the law.”

The ICO is contacting ‘major businesses in food and parcel delivery’ to remind them of their data protection responsibilities.

Keaney said: “If you are running a customer facing business, you have a responsibility to protect the data of your customers, including from your employees misusing it.”

Savanta surveyed 2,289 UK adults aged 18+ between 28 – 31 July. Data were weighted to be representative by age, gender, region, and social grade.

The ICO call for evidence on unwanted employee contact is open until 15 September.