News

Guernsey data protection regulator has teeth and uses them (£80k time !!!!)

03/09/2020

Sure has been fined £80,000 after publishing a number of "mistakes and inaccuracies" in the most recent Guernsey phonebook - including numbers that should have been ex-directory.

Hundreds of customer complaints were made, with a total of 244 inaccurate numbers.

The Office of the Data Protection Authority believes that number may be higher than recorded, however, as Sure relied on customers themselves to highlight any mistakes.

Sure confirmed there were 119 entries in the directory which shouldn't have been published, with 19 customers being flagged as at-risk of potential harm as a result.

The telecoms company claimed the mistakes were down to changes it made to both the format of the directory and the information in it, following the implementation of the Data Protection Law.

The ODPA opened an inquiry in October last year, which found that Sure had failed to specify how personal data would be processed for the new directory, and hadn't carried out a Data Protection Impact Assessment before implementing changes.

The Authority said it was "apparent" that the company "did not appreciate the potential impact on certain data subjects" and noted how it had rejected customer requests to recall and re-publish the paper version of the directory.

"The fact that paper copies of the directory including the inaccurate and/or ex-directory information continue to be in circulation and/or are accessible and/or available means that the duration of the breach is extended for the duration such directories are in circulation," a spokesperson for the ODPA said.

"In so far as the processing of data is unfair or involves inaccurate data, then such issues persist in relation to the paper copies. Steps could have been taken to reduce the impact."

40,000 copies of the free phonebook were distributed across the Bailiwick.

In May this year, following the inquiry, Sure was issued with a breach determination notice and the ODPA decided a fine would also be appropriate.

"Data subjects could suffer damage as a result of the wrongful publication of telephone numbers, addresses or other personal data," a spokesperson for the ODPA said. "The same is also true of inaccurate information published.

"The harm/damage suffered by the affected data subjects as a result of the inaccurate information and/or ex-directory information being published either could include or does include financial loss, distress, inconvenience and similar other adverse effects."

However, Sure has said it is "disappointed and surprised" by the Authority's decision, reached following a "flawed and unfair" investigation process.

"[The inquiry] included a lack of full disclosure about the specific matters of concern to the ODPA, which in turn made it difficult for us to participate meaningfully with the process," a spokesperson for the company said.

"From our initial review of the ruling we disagree profoundly with the findings of the ODPA's investigation, some of which were not put to us during the investigation and some of which are, in our opinion, factually incorrect. As such, we are now considering the ruling in detail before we formally respond."

Sure said it gave all customers the opportunity to check their entries before the directory was printed.

"We understand that the directory plays a necessary role in keeping the island community connected which is why we've chosen to feature an historic image on the 2020/2021 cover to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Bailiwick's liberation, which we are looking forward to sharing with the community soon."

The telecoms company has until the end of the month to pay the £80,000 fine, unless it chooses to appeal the decision in the Royal Court within 28 days.

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