Waste not, want not failure

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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined and prosecuted a former waste management employee who took information about previous clients with him when he left his job.

Mark Lloyd was still employed by the waste management company, Acorn Waste Management Ltd (Acorn), when he sent an email containing the details of 957 clients to his personal email address. At the time he was due to leave Acorn to work for a competing organisation. The email contained personal information of customers and commercially sensitive information.

Lloyd appeared at Telford Magistrates Court last month and was prosecuted under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (‘the DPA’) for unlawfully obtaining personal data. The outcome of his actions resulted in him being fined £300, required to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and a further £405.98 in costs.

Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO commented ‘Employees need to be aware that documents containing personal data they have produced or worked on belong to their employer and are not theirs to take with them when they leave. Don’t risk a day in court by being ignorant of the law’.

Anyone who processes personal information must comply with the eight principles of the DPA and it is a criminal offence to unlawfully obtain or access personal data under section 55 of the DPA 1998.

Employers should also be aware of the principles of data protection and educate employees in such matters. Training would be beneficial to both employees and employers given that the ICO can take action against individuals and organisations. Furthermore, employers can include a restrictive covenant in an employment contract to prevent an employee from taking information with them when they leave, particularly to a competing organisation. A disgruntled employer could report a breach to the ICO should an ex-employee misuse personal information.

The ICO continues to urge for harsher punishment, including fines and imprisonment to stop the unlawful use of personal information and the case serves as a timely reminder of the potential consequences of breaching data protection law. If you require further information on Data Protection or related matters please contact Daniel Milnes.

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