ICO prosecutes company employees for unlawfully accessing client data

A former employee of Lex Autolease Ltd has been prosecuted and fined under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The employee illegally accessed personal data records of 551 customers of the Company which related to road traffic accidents. The employee accessed the records on his employer's computer and then emailed them to his private email address, which he then sold to a third party as personal leads.

Section 55 covers the unlawful obtaining, disclosing or procuring of personal data, which is a criminal offence. The ICO has warned that employees should “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.”

Currently the offence is punishable by way of a fine only, but the ICO continues to call for more effective deterrent sentences, including the threat of prison, to be available to the courts to stop the unlawful use of personal information.

The employee pleaded guilty to two charges under section 55 of the DPA at Manchester Magistrates' Court. He was fined £500 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £364 and a £25 victim surcharge.

Employers should notify the ICO if they are concerned that an individual is misusing personal data, especially if those individuals have access to customer data or are moving to competitors. Informing the ICO will assist in the company avoiding any criticism for covering up or not taking proper action to remedy a data breach.

It is important that employees who have access to commercially sensitive information are employed on strict contractual terms. Such terms should include express confidentiality provisions applying during and after termination of employment and obligations to return all company property and information when leaving the company.

This case demonstrates that the consequences of an employee taking any confidential or customer information can be a criminal offence, in addition to any other consequences arising from a breach of their employment obligations. Whilst the threat of a criminal sentence may be a deterrent, employers should also have in place appropriate security measures supported by policies, procedures and well-trained staff in order to minimise the risk of personal data being compromised. These protections should not only seek to prevent confidential information being stolen in the first place, but also from being used subsequently.

CONTACT CHRIS

If you would like more information or advice relating to this article or an Employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Chris Cook on 01727 798098.

© SA LAW 2021

Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.

Read the latest Employment Views & Insights
They seek to understand their clients and advise accordingly to achieve the outcomes that they require for their business needs.
Chambers and Partners
SA Law Work Life red mug and glasses
SA Law Employment Laptop
Views & Insights
Employee status – what’s in a label?

SA Law's employment team explore the importance of establishing 'employment status'

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
How more widespread flexible working could improve equality

The pandemic has altered perceptions of flexible working for the better. As we move forward, it could be the key to unlocking true gender equality in…

Read More
SA Law Employment Laptop
Views & Insights
Gender-critical beliefs capable of protection by Equality Act

A woman who lost her job after tweeting that people cannot change their biological sex has won her appeal against an employment tribunal

Read More
Phone Box with Man in a Bowler Hat
As there is so much expertise on offer from SA Law they can provide a legal expert on all areas so that it can be handled under one roof.
Legal 500
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
What HR needs to know about rolling out 'family-friendly' policies

Employment partner, Beth Leng, features on HR Grapevine podcast

Read More
SA Law Employment Laptop
Views & Insights
Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 : 10th - 16th May

Employment expert, Beth Leng, explores the importance that this event holds when reflecting on the last year and looking to the future.

Read More
Stained glass window Employment SA Law
Views & Insights
Return to work: calling all commuters!

What to expect as we return to ‘regular’ life post-lockdown

Read More
SA Law Employment Laptop
Views & Insights
FAQs: Coronavirus Vaccinations and the workplace

As the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout continues, employers should prepare for its impact on their workforce, potential employment law pitfalls and…

Read More
They are knowledgeable, with a commercial mindset, but also down to earth and friendly so it is easy to be very honest with them.
Chambers and Partners