How punishable is the misuse of private information?
In a world where millions of files can be transferred in mere seconds at the click of a button, it’s hard to keep on top of who knows what these days. With today’s ever-advancing technology, one photograph can go viral on a worldwide scale in a matter of minutes.
For those of us who prefer our most personal information to not be broadcast and shared with the world, it can be difficult to keep it private nowadays. The Data Protection Act (DPA) helps with this since it came into force in 1998, and it tells us that, in England and Wales, personal information must be protected and tightly controlled.
Any misuse of private information can be punishable.
About the law
It’s necessary in this day and age for some organisations, businesses and the government to have access to personal information. They need to keep records of our citizen status, finances, medical reports for when we go to the hospital, to name a few. However, just because they have access to this information doesn’t mean they have unlimited ability to do whatever they want with it. The DPA has a list of data protection principles that anyone with access to personal and private information must adhere to.
For example, information must be:
- Used fairly and lawfully
- Used for a limited, specifically stated purpose
- Adequate, relevant and necessary usage
- Kept safe and secure
There are even stricter rules when it comes to sensitive information containing a person’s sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and other similar personal characteristics.
What happens when these principles are breached?
When these principles aren’t followed, and a misuse of private information occurs, the owner of the private information may be eligible to recover compensation for any distress and financial losses that may occur.
Sometimes, it’s not just organisations and companies who misuse personal information by selling it to third parties; there have been cases where the very authority we place our trust and confidence in to protect us may slip-up and cause us endless anguish…
In one example, a victim who was involved in a domestic abuse case suffered a breach when the police somehow disclosed her phone containing video evidence of the alleged abuse to the alleged assailant. This serious breach caused great distress to the victim, and the ICO fined the Kent-based police force £80,000.00 for their actions.
Another case where the police were found guilty of leaking sensitive information was when they disclosed the identity and full medical history of another domestic abuse victim. She had only consented to the material being used within the police force to help with internal training, and was devastated when she found out that they’d publicised her information!
Consent is key
When it comes to sharing personal information, consent is key. When information is requested, we must consent to giving it and for it to be used in a specific manner.
When a nurse asks you intimate details pre-operation in order to pass it along to a surgeon, you expect her to do exactly that and only that. You wouldn’t expect her to upload it to the internet to outline your medical condition and surgical procedure…
What you need to do as a victim…
If you think your personal information has been leaked or misused without your full consent, talk to our team by calling 0800 634 7575 for help and advice.
Request a call back from our team
Fill out our quick call back form below and we'll contact you when you're ready to talk to us.
All fields marked with a * are required.