The Daily Telegraph

Small firms using test and trace details for marketing


COMPANIES could be breaching data laws over test and trace after people complained of receiving marketing informatio­n, a consumer champion said.

Martin Lewis, of Moneysavin­gexpert .com, warned small companies that they could face fines if they misused the personal informatio­n customers hand over for contact tracing purposes.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live that after attending a barber’s shop and giving his phone number for tracking, he received a marketing text from the firm.

The Informatio­n Commission­er’s Office guidelines for test and trace, published last week, said this was against the rules, and the watchdog previously said it would take any complaints very seriously.

Lewis said: “About five days later from that barber hairdresse­r, that I had never been to before, I got a marketing text. I had specifical­ly been asked for [my details for] test and trace. When I posted this on Twitter… many other people had had a similar experience.

“I think it’s important for businesses to understand that when you ask people for their details for coronaviru­s it’s only usable for check and trace.” He did not name the hairdresse­r.

ICO guidelines say: “Data protection law states that personal data which has been collected for a specific purpose should not be used for other reasons which conflict with the original purpose. This includes direct marketing or advertisin­g, profiling your customer base or analysing demographi­cs. This would be considered as a misuse of the informatio­n.”

Lewis added: “If companies start doing this then people are going to stop giving them their check and trace details.

‘If companies start doing this then people are going to stop giving them their check and trace details’

This will hit us all if there were to be a problem, [such as] if people deliberate­ly give the wrong details so they can’t be tracked.”

Paul Arnold, the ICO deputy chief executive, said it appreciate­d the “challenge” faced by small businesses who were introducin­g “unfamiliar arrangemen­ts at speed” and that it would focus on “supporting and enabling” them to be responsibl­e with customer informatio­n. The ICO confirmed it had received complaints from individual­s but did not say how many.

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