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ICO warns people it’s against the law to take clients’ personal information to a new company

A former recruitment consultant has been prosecuted for taking client records containing personal information to her new job.

Rebecca Gray pleaded guilty at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 18 January to a section 55 obtaining offence under the Data Protection Act.

The defendant, who worked for Elite Employment Group in Widnes, emailed the contact details of over 100 clients to her personal email address and used the information to contact them in her position at a rival recruitment company.

Ms Gray said she hadn’t meant to intentionally cause harm and that she was sorry for what had happened.  The court heard she had subsequently lost her job in recruitment.

She was fined £200, ordered to pay £214 prosecution costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement said: “Taking clients’ personal information when you change jobs for your own benefit or benefit of the company is against the law.

“We’re asking people to stop and think about the consequences before taking information.

“Most people know it’s wrong but they don’t seem to realise it’s a criminal offence and that they could end up in court and also lose their job.

“What people think is a minor mistake can lead to job loss, a day in court and a fine.”

Unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data is a criminal offence under section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. The offence is punishable by way of ‘fine only’ in a Magistrates Court or a Crown Court.

 

Notes 

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. 
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. 
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000. 
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns