Privacy Regulator Warns of Surge in “Text Pest” Cases

Written by

The UK’s data protection watchdog is urging victims of so-called “text pests” to come forward after revealing that nearly a third (29%) of 18–34-year-olds have had their personal information misused.

Text pest cases occur when an individual gives their personal details, including phone number or email, to a business for legitimate reasons. However, someone working at that business then uses the details to proposition the individual, for example asking them out on a date.

The ICO said two-thirds (66%) of the British public believes it is not morally right to use personal details given for business purposes for romantic or sexual propositions.

That’s why it wants victims to come forward, so it can better gauge the impact of this illegal behavior.

It will also be contacting some of the biggest customer-facing employers in the country to remind them of their legal responsibilities and to learn more about what safeguards they have in place.

Read more on nuisance texts: Over 80% of Brits Deluged with Scam Calls and Texts

“People have the right to order a pizza, or give their email for a receipt, or have shopping delivered, without then being asked for sex or a date a little while later,” said ICO deputy commissioner for regulatory policy, Emily Keaney.

“They have a right to know that when they hand over their personal information, that it will not then be used in ways that they would not be comfortable with. But our research today shows a disturbingly high number of people, particularly young people, are falling prey to these text pests.”

According to the ICO, just 5% of the British public thinks it’s morally right to engage in text-pesting.

“There may be, amongst some, an outdated notion that to use someone’s personal details given to you in a business context to ask them out is romantic or charming. Put quite simply, it is not – it is against the law,” said Kearney.

“If you are running a customer facing business, you have a responsibility to protect the data of your customers, including from your employees misusing it. We are writing to major businesses, including food and parcel delivery, to remind them that there are no excuses, and there can be no looking the other way.”

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?