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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Information Commissioner Threatens to Close Down Illegal trade in subscriber data

17 November, 2009
The UK's information watchdog has uncovered the sale of subscriber data from staff at an un-named mobile phone operator in the country to brokers for re-sale
Provisions within the data protection act aren't tough enough to deter "white collar" data thieves from selling on subscriber data in a lucrative trade, according to the UK's Information Commissioner. He is determined to bring convictions against those committing the crime and to increase penalties to include custodial sentences to act as a real deterrent.

This particular case arose when subscribers complained to the Information Watchdog about being approached by competing mobile phone operators as their existing contracts neared their expiry dates. Subsequent investigations have highlighted the illegal trade in subscriber data by employees of the company.

Like retail staff dipping their hands in the till, this is an example of dishonest employees blatantly stealing proprietary corporate data and selling it on. It differs from many of the more high profile identity theft cases because it relates to a crime committed by those who have legitimate access to the data unlike phishing crimes or hacking incidents. In this respect, the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, is right to demand tougher sentences as this involves a serious breach of trust on the part of those to whom people provide their personal data voluntarily.

The investigations have been completed and the evidence is currently being considered after which Christopher Graham is determined to bring prosecutions.
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