Cold Calls and the Personal Data Cycle

4th Dec 2020

You receive cold calls from companies who have acquired your details on a mysterious list. Who are these companies? How did you get on that list and how can you get off it?

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At IPS we’ve been re-watching a five year old 3 minute animation from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office.

Watch it yourself to learn a bit more about this opaque business of “data broking”. Knowledge is power and the IPS members can help each other enforce that power by following the actions we listed below.

Minute 1

Minute 1

Stanley innocently enters an online competition to win a holiday. To complete his entry he must tick a Terms and Conditions box. He does that without reading them. (Sound familiar?). That simple tick was actually an Opt-In that allowed most of what follows to be the legal consequences of giving that consent.

Let’s assume the competition is being run by the online magazine of a media publisher originally. By 20 seconds he’s getting calls from other corners of the media publishing empire. By 35 seconds the data has been passed on (legally) to a third party data broker who then sell it on themselves as part of a bundle of data from many different sources. More calls and emails are heading his way.

It’s worthy to note that the ICO published a ground-breaking investigative report in October 2020 on the behaviour of three major UK credit reference agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) –  which also operate as data brokers for direct marketing purposes – to rein in their use and sharing of personal data with third parties. Stanley’s tick box triggered a wave of sharing he didn’t consider in the moment he took to do the ticking…

Minute 2

Minute 2

The data broker has shared his details with a Lead Generator who passes it on to a legal accident claims company and a very dubious one – and all their affiliates. This completes the data cycle of misery for Stanley. The dubious company makes a lot of calls to a lot of people on their lists in the hope of catching someone willing to confirm or reveal that they were in accident – that can trigger a completely new cycle involving dodgy legal entities promising to get you compensation.

Minute 3

Minute 3

So what can we learn from this?

  • Ticking the box is frequently an “opt-in” to receiving follow up communication. Think before you tick.
  • If you do get a call and you don’t want any more ask them to remove you from their list. That is you removing consent and they can’t legally call you again without you providing another consent.
  • Terms and Conditions might be easy to digest and understand so give them a try. This does sound unlikely so consider “opt-out” if you suspect all those words are there to disguise what they are going to do with your data.
  • You can report your concerns to the ICO  here.
  • You can tell your fellow members how you feel on the  Facebook Community.

…together we can get things done.

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