Author: Laura Spencer

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Routed in the Past

Passwords, every 2 or 3 months they should be changed or adjusted slightly in order to keep your password protected account/device secure. So why do we not change our Wi-Fi password for our router? Most of us will still be using the awkwardly long password written on the back of our router or on a card, and not think twice about changing it.  In reality we should probably be changing this password as soon as we can, and then regularly modifying it to keep a secure network.

The complacency that we approach our router security with is quite frankly appalling – it  is so easy for an individual with malicious intentions to hack into a router. Particularly when working from home networks which are not designed for intensive business use. Throughout the  pandemic, working from home has been a necessity for millions of people  working in business of all shapes and sizes, however, the reality of the scenario is that our Wi-Fi routers are vulnerable and we need to adapt them in order to make them less susceptible to hacking as well as other security risks.

With lockdowns and COVID restrictions slowly coming to an end its foreseeable that more and more visitors will be coming into your home. And what is the first thing that most ask?

“What is the Wi-Fi password?”

So what?

Giving the Wi-Fi password to a visitor to your house seems so innocent and somewhat a rite of passage in this day in age. Even my grandad in his 70s asked for the Wi-Fi password when in my garden this weekend! However if working from home, individuals should perhaps consider partitioning your home Wi-Fi, one for work devices such as your computer and work phone as well as one for normal usage for both your personal devices, smart speakers, TVs, and any other internet enabled technology and keep a separate partitioned network for guests. On the same front you could also consider using a guest Wi-Fi and keeping a separate Wi-Fi for those who live with you.

The importance of outdated routers as well as router security comes after a recent report by Which? The report details problems found by its lab during extensive tests.

The main concerns highlighted by the report include:

  • Weak default passwords cyber-criminals could hack were found on most of the routers
  • A lack of firmware updates, important for security and performance
  • A network vulnerability with EE’s Brightbox 2, which could give a hacker full control of the device

The UK Government plans to ban default passwords being pre-set on devices, as part of upcoming legislation covering smart devices. This would come under the UK’s Internet of Things (‘IoT’) ‘Security by Design’ law. The law is aimed at enhancing the security of consumer devices, this comes after the government introduction of a security code of practice for IoT device manufacturers back in 2018 – with the forthcoming legislation intending to build on that with a set of legally binding requirements. This therefore would encourage the individual to keep their device and network more secure – similarly in highlighting it in such report as this and equally solidifying it in legislation will aid the public’s understanding of the importance of keeping a secure home network.

The ‘Security by Design’ law is also planning to make manufacturers:

  • Tell customers for how long their device will receive security-software updates
  • Provide a public point of contact to make it simpler for anyone to report a vulnerability

This will enable individuals to have greater access to information and help in regards to their device security.

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Pandemic Business Boom: Website Blunders

Living in the 21st Century it is increasingly easy for individuals to start their own businesses, especially during the pandemic new businesses have risen to around 407,510 new businesses were formed during this period (according to SKY news https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-record-number-of-new-businesses-predicted-as-uk-comes-out-of-coronavirus-lockdown-12236841). However when it comes to marketing and advertising for your brand there are a few key points which need to be considered.

The first being what sort of platform are you going to use to build your website?

It is common and only natural to see an advertisement of a company on the TV or see an advert online which uses fancy advertising with offices around the world. However, often the knee jerk reaction is ‘this must be a good company, look at how well advertised they are’ and therefore you make the decision to build your platform using their platform and tools. This is not always the case. The most important aspect when looking to build an online presence is the legal and regulatory compliance of the platform. Read through their privacy policy in detail; read through their terms and conditions and then decide whether you think that they are in fact compliant – you would be surprised as to what the platforms that  spend money on advertising on the TV and online hide in regards to their compliance, or potentially lack of it. Recently we have been working for a client which has been using one of the highly advertised sites as his website platform and going through his website compliance documents raised too many red flags to ignore – hence the inspiration for this post!

In this case there were a few major red flags.

  • Their storage limitation (data retention)
  • Their data minimisation
  • Their server base location

Starting with the storage limitation of our client’s website provider; the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) directs companies and organisations:

  • You must not keep personal data for longer than you need it.
  • You need to think about – and be able to justify – how long you keep personal data. This will depend on your purposes for holding the data.
  • You need a policy setting standard retention periods wherever possible, to comply with documentation requirements.
  • You should also periodically review the data you hold, and erase or anonymise it when you no longer need it.
  • You must carefully consider any challenges to your retention of data. Individuals have a right to erasure if you no longer need the data.
  • You can keep personal data for longer if you are only keeping it for public interest archiving, scientific or historical research, or statistical purposes.

The UK General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’) does not dictate how long you should keep personal data for. It is up to the company or organisation to justify their retention of such data, based on their purposes for processing it. Personal data for many companies and organisations are kept for a maximum of 6 years – this is because UK statutory limitation – the period of time for which a contract could be subject to a legal dispute resulting in a court claim – is 6 years. After 6 years a transaction or contract cannot be the subject for a court case and by default many corporations destroy all such records after 6 years.

Ensuring that you erase or anonymise personal data when you no longer need it will reduce the risk that it becomes irrelevant, excessive, inaccurate or out of date. Apart from helping you to comply with the data minimisation and accuracy principles, this also reduces the risk that you will use such data in error – to the detriment of all concerned.

But why is storage limitation so important?

Personal data held for too long will, by definition, be unnecessary. You are unlikely to have a lawful basis for retention (e.g. 6 year statutory Limitation as outlined above). From a more practical perspective, it is inefficient to hold more personal data than you need, and there may be unnecessary costs associated with storage and security, either in hard copy or online. Remember that you must also respond to subject access requests for any personal data you hold. This may be more difficult if you are holding old data for longer than you need. Good practice around storage limitation – with clear policies on retention periods and erasure – is also likely to reduce the burden of dealing with queries about retention and individual requests for erasure.

Data minimisation is also covered under UK GDPR. The ICO directs companies and organisations, when processing data to ensure that the data is processed in way that are deemed:

  • adequate – sufficient to properly fulfil your stated purpose;
  • relevant – has a rational link to that purpose; and
  • limited to what is necessary – you do not hold more than you need for that purpose.

The idea of minimisation is based around companies and organisations only collecting data that they need, and is necessary. The website provider our client was using was ‘hoovering’ up information which why did not necessarily need – taking information from it’s users users. Minimisation is important because orgnisations should not be collecting more data than they need for the specific task the personal data is collected for.

Finally the server location through our client’s website provider is vague. It is important for companies and organisations to know where your data is being stored, whether the data is encrypted and if so to what standard (e.g. SSL 128- bit, TSL 256-bit). If your data is hosted with a cloud provider where the physical servers are not within the EU, then you can’t use that service unless the appropriate GDPR compliant international transfer conditions are met (adequacy, a data transfer agreement containing standard contractual clauses or binding corporate rules). These conditions are complex, hence it is helpful to know where the personal data, for which your organisation is responsible, is actually being stored. Any provider who either cannot confirm this simple information, or obfuscates when the question is asked, should be avoided. Even if they do have lots of shiny offices and a slick TV advertising campaign.   

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Experian Discredited: ICO Investigation

Picture this – you are looking to buy your first house – you get your credit score checked by Experian  – you have heard of them, maybe seen some advertising on TV,  and so you go ahead. Little would you think about what Experian may be doing with your data without your knowledge/consent because there are regulations that they must follow – surely?

Experian and other credit reference agencies collect and process vast amounts of personal data in order to carry out credit checks as well as parts of their other services; ‘We gather, analyse, combine and process it to help people and organisations achieve their goals’. Yet does this mean that you as a consumer are intending for your personal information to be traded, enriched and enhanced without your knowledge or consent for marketing purposes?

The answer, more often than not, is no.

You most likely do not want the company sharing your information with third parties purely for their own marketing gain, even more so without your consent to boot.

This processing of your personal data by Experian resulted in products which were used by commercial organisations such as political parties or charities to find new customers, identify the people most likely to be able to afford goods and services, and build profiles about people.  The UK Data Protection Regulator , the Information Commissioners Office (“ICO”) found that significant ‘invisible’ processing took place, likely affecting millions of adults in the UK. ‘Invisible’ because the individual data subject is not aware that the organisation is collecting and using their personal data. This is against data protection law.

The Data Protection Act (DPA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) initiated a new approach to personal data and the transference of such data. It had 7 main aims/principles

  1. Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
  2. Purpose limitation
  3. Data minimisation
  4. Accuracy
  5. Storage limitation
  6. Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  7. Accountability

These aimed to guide and regulate organisations to allow for individuals to have greater access to their data and to be able to understand what companies could and could not do with it.

Experian, failed to be transparent – outlined under Article 5 GDPR; this is because they were using ‘invisible’ processing of personal data and therefore were not being clear to data subjects, as to what their personal data was really being used for. g. The regulator found that personal data provided to Experian, in order for them to provide their statutory credit referencing function, was being used in limited ways for marketing purposes.

The ICO ordered Experian to make fundamental changes to how it handles people’s personal data within its direct marketing services. Experian did not accept that they were required to make the changes set out by the ICO, and as such were not prepared to issue privacy information directly to individuals nor cease the use of credit reference data for direct marketing purposes. As a result, Experian has been given an enforcement notice compelling it to make changes within nine months or risk further action. This could include a fine of up to £20m or 4% of the organisation’s total annual worldwide turnover. The enforcement notice followed a two-year investigation by the ICO into how Experian used personal data within their data brokering businesses for direct marketing purposes. The ICO’s notice requires Experian to inform people that it holds their personal data and how it is using or intends to use it for marketing purposes. Experian has until July 2021 to do this subject to any appeal. The ICO also requires Experian to stop using personal data derived from the credit referencing side of its business by January 2021, which it does currently for limited direct marketing purposes. In the enforcement notice, the ICO states that people have no choice about whether their data is shared with Experian for credit referencing purposes and that Experian’s processing of this data for marketing purposes is unexpected.

At the same time that the ICO were investigating Experian, other credit reference agencies (CRA) were being investigated for similar reasons, only along with transparency some of the CRAs were also using profiling to generate new or previously unknown information about people, which is often privacy invasive. It is not revealed in the report as to whether Experian were also using profiling within their processing. This highlights the potential need for further regulating of these providers to ensure that there is compliance at all times in regards to both UK GDPR as well as the UK Data Protection Act (DPA). Similarly investigations such as this open consumer eyes as to what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ of companies in regards to their data and how it is used. Outgoing UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has remarked: “The data broking sector is a complex ecosystem where information appears to be traded widely, without consideration for transparency, giving millions of adults in the UK little or no choice or control over their personal data. The lack of transparency and lack of lawful bases combined with the intrusive nature of the profiling has resulted in a serious breach of individuals’ information rights.”

It is safe to say that certain reports and investigations that your data is being used for purposes that you did not consent to will have had an impact on the company itself – with its reputation severely tarnished.

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Marketing Consent Crisis

We have all been there, scrolling through the endless marketing spam in our inbox – most of the time not even taking any notice on what we are deleting. Throughout the pandemic organisations have also turned to SMS in order to market their business – equally buying and selling personal data illegally in order to find a new customer bases.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’) Article 6 specifies that there has to be a legal basis for processing the data – the article also outlines 6 basis that make the processing legal. These are: 

  1. Consent: the individual has given clear specific informed consent for you to process their personal data for a specific purpose.
  2. Contract: the processing is necessary for a contract you have with the individual, or because they have asked you to take specific steps before entering into a contract.
  3. Legal obligation: the processing is necessary for you to comply with the law (not including contractual obligations).
  4. Vital interests: the processing is necessary to protect someone’s life.
  5. Public task: the processing is necessary for you to perform a task in the public interest or for your official functions, and the task or function has a clear basis in law.
  6. Legitimate interests: the processing is necessary for your legitimate interests or the legitimate interests of a third party, unless there is a good reason to protect the individual’s personal data which overrides those legitimate interests. (This cannot apply if you are a public authority processing data to perform your official tasks.)

Where organisations are using personal data to send unsolicited marketing emails and messages they may be doing this without consent which therefore breaking the law. Not to mention that these are often annoying and frustrating!

Why is a Legal Basis Necessary?

The first principle of GDPR requires that you process all personal data lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner. If no lawful basis applies to your processing, your processing will be unlawful and in breach of the first principle. Individuals also have the right to erase personal data which has been processed unlawfully. The individual’s right to be informed under Article 13 and 14 requires you to provide people with information about your lawful basis for processing. This means you need to include these details in your privacy notice.

However the UK Data Protection Regulator  the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) throughout the pandemic have been having to enforce more and more cases of non-compliance in organisations. For example the ICO reported on the 5th March 2021 they fined two separate companies that sent nuisance text messages during the Covid-19 pandemic have been fined a total of £330,000 by the ICO. Messages from one of the companies prompted a record 10,000 complaints.

The companies in question were Leads Works Ltd and Valca Vehicle Ltd. The ICO fined West Sussex-based Leads Works Ltd £250,000 for sending more than 2.6 million nuisance text messages to customers without their valid consent. These messages, that were sent between 16 May and 26 June 2020, resulted in over 10,000 complaints, the company have also been issued with an enforcement notice by the ICO, ordering it to stop sending unlawful direct marketing messages.

Examples of the text messages include:

“In lockdown and want to earn extra cash? Avon is now FULLY ONLINE, FREE to do and paid weekly. Reply with your name for info. 18+ only. Text STOP to opt out.” The ICO’s investigation found Avon did not send or instigate the text messages.

Valca Vehicles Ltd, following complaints from the public to the ICO, the company was found to have sent more than 95,000 text messages from June to July 2020 without the recipients’ permission. The messages referenced the pandemic and were designed to appeal to individuals whose finances have been adversely affected. This, in the Commissioner’s view, was a clear attempt to capitalise on, and profiteer from, the health crisis.

Examples of the text messages:

“*firstname* Affected by Covid? Struggling with finances? lost job /furloughed? Were here to help! Gvnmnt backed support see if you qualify http://www.debtquity.org”. The company, which is currently operating as ‘Debtquity’ to generate leads for debt management products, has also been issued with an enforcement notice by the ICO, ordering them to stop sending the messages.

A Post Pandemic World…

The future, although uncertain, will involve businesses trying to recuperate what was lost to the pandemic – rebuilding and reimagining marketing. However, it is important to note that despite the fact we have been living in unprecedented times, the UK GDPR as implemented through the UK Data Protection Act (‘DPA’) still has to be followed in order for business to operate legally.

So is buying contacts and sending marketing emails and sms texts impossible under GDPR?

NO – this can still be done but it has to be done in a manner consistent with GDPR. An organisation can purchase personal data such as emails or phone numbers and used them for marketing PROVIDED you can demonstrate compliance with one of the 6 bases named above. Poor value data vendors are continuing with the same poor practices that were actually illegal under the pre – GDPR data protection laws, let alone now. Good vendors are providing due diligence documents demonstrating legal basis, and providing the purchaser with evidence to demonstrate compliance, such as records of consent, showing how and when it was given and for what purpose. Any reputable vendor would be easily able to provide this information on request, so the onus falls on the organisation buying the data and doing the marketing – don’t forget your GDPR due dilligence.  

*Spam texts and emails, as well as nuisance calls can be reported through the ICO’s website at ico.org.uk/concerns. Mobile phone users can also report spam texts to the GSMA Spam Reporting Service by forwarding the message to 7726.

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Docassemble Showcase Recording

On the 25th February Anson Evaluate with the aid of Tonic Workflows and Sheffield Legal Hackers hosted a showcase – celebrating ‘Access to Justice’ projects which had been worked on by those involved in the ‘Free Course: Build an A2J tool using Docassemble’.

Projects from the A2J Docassemble course included groups exploring revenge pornography, domestic abuse as well as asylum seekers. Each project would begin in the research stage, in order to understand what the unmet legal need was exactly; leading on from this research, groups began to design and plan apps or software which could be used as a basis to meet the legal need. From here groups used the Docassemble platform to build their project in code format. Finally each group has presented their A2J topic and demoed their Docassemble software in front of the other A2J groups as well as a virtual panel. The recording of the showcase held in February is linked below.

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Schrems II: Privacy Shield Down – The future of international data transfers with the US

Dr. Heather Anson chaired a discussion on Wednesday 12 August at 1pm BST regarding the recent European court decision that struck down the EU-US privacy shield, the main data sharing agreement allowing the storage of personal data of EU citizens in the US where the majority of the worlds cloud storage infrastructure is held.

Heather Anson was joined by Peter Wright, managing director of Digital Law, Jennifer Baker, Brussels based technology journalist, and Anna Drozd, specialist on EU law on Privacy and data protection based in the Brussels office of the Law Society of England and Wales, and covered topics such as:

  • The implications of this decision on data sharing between Europe and the US,
  • The use of Standard Contractual Clauses in contracts to facilitate international data transfers,
  • The use of Binding Corporate Rules,
  • The implications for businesses based in the UK, Europe and elsewhere who wish to trade in the European digital single market,
  • The likely implications of Brexit on international data transfers to and from the UK,

and more.

Don’t worry if you missed it, the webinar was recorded and is now available on demand by clicking on the link below.

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Episode 4 – Mental Health (Lockdown – LET webinar series)

Hi everyone. Here is episode 4 of our ongoing webinar series “Lockdown – The Light at the End of the Tunnel”.

This weeks episode is focused on Mental Health covering topics such as the VUCA environment, the impact Covid-19 has had on peoples mental health, stress and anxiety, how individuals can support their own mental health, what leaders can do to support their employees, the resources available for those who require support and much more!

This webinar features Paula Louise Dixon, Business Psychology Associate at Sereniti Ltd and of course Dr.Heather Anson, the managing director of Anson Evaluate.

If you want to keep up to date with any of our upcoming webinars, please email us on Events@AnsonEvaluate.com and we will add you to our subscription list.

We hope you find it useful!

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Episode 3 – Cyber Security and Phishing (Lockdown – LET webinar series)

Hi everyone. Here is episode 3 of our new webinar series “Lockdown – The Light at the End of the Tunnel”.

This weeks episode is focused on Cyber Security and Phishing, specifically covering topics such as remote working, ransomware/malware, phishing, LinkedIn, how to prepare your business, specific threats relating to the pandemic and much more.

The webinar features Laura Spencer, an Apprentice Solicitor at Digital Law, and Lisa Ventura, the CEO and Founder of the UK Cyber Security Association.

If you want to keep up to date with any of our upcoming webinars, please email us on Events@AnsonEvaluate.com and we will add you to our subscription list.

We hope you find it useful!

by Laura Spencer Laura Spencer No Comments

Episode 2 – “Lockdown – The Light at the End of the Tunnel” HR and Business

Hi everyone. Here is episode 2 of our new webinar series “Lockdown – The Light at the End of the Tunnel”.

This weeks episode is focused on HR and Business, and specifically covers topics such as home working, furloughing and unfurloughing employees, annual leave, health and safety in the workplace, mental health and much more.

The webinar features 3 members of the Bhayani HR and Employment Law team – Managing Director and Solicitor Jay Bhayani, Senior HR Adviser Kathryn Gilbert and Business Consultant Jason Thelwell.

If you want to keep up to date with any of our upcoming webinars, please email us on Events@AnsonEvaluate.com and we will add you to our subscription list.

We hope you find it useful!

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