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  1. #1
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    Good Ole Data Protection Act, I feel safe.

    7-year-old faces M&S InquisitionNot just data protection, this is M&S data protection
    By John Ozimek
    Published Friday 5th September 2008 07:47 GMT

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Calls by the Information Commissioner for organisations to stop hiding behind the Data Protection Act (DPA) fell on deaf ears this week as Marks and Spencers insisted on a seven-year-old giving official permission before an operator could talk to his mum.

    The Information Commissioner’s initiative was timed to coincide with the start of Stupid Aid Week (1-5th September). It aimed to highlight common misunderstandings amongst organisations such as the belief that data protection stops them giving out any personal information or prevents them from dealing with certain types of enquiries.

    This follows earlier initiatives, debunking various myths about what the DPA required organisations to do. Commonly cited examples of data protection “duck outs” include parents not being allowed to take photos of their child at a nativity play; teachers unable to promote the successes of pupils in the local media and priests prevented from praying for an ill person by name during mass.

    A pity that Marks and Spencer doesn’t appear to have noticed. Instead, Jacob Hunter-Lamb’s mother, Debbie, sat and fumed as a call centre operator first demanded that the seven-year-old come on to the phone and identify himself in person – and then had to wait even longer, as the same operator attempted to elicit Jacob’s consent before talking with his mother.

    "The whole thing was just so bizarre," said 33-year-old Debbie Lamb, of Lincoln.

    The story began when Jacob’s aunt gave him a superman outfit for his birthday. Tearing open the package, Jacob was disappointed to discover that the belt – essential to keeping his super-trousers aloft - was missing.

    His mother rang Marks and Spencer’s customer helpline – but instead of a quick chat to resolve the problem she found herself plunged into farce as the call handler insisted he could only speak to Jacob because of 'data protection laws'.

    The puzzled schoolboy was then led, haltingly, through the standard procedures designed to confirm his identity. The task almost ground to a halt when the operator asked for his postcode.

    As his mother explained: "He doesn't get many phone calls and nobody had ever asked him for his postcode before. It's never featured in his little world."

    Finally, after much prompting, he agreed that his mother was entitled to handle his business dealings, and almost normal service was restored. Marks and Spencer have since apologised, putting the episode down to 'human error' – and Jacob has benefitted to the tune of a free Hulk outfit.

    Kapow!
    The Information Commissioner's Office was less forgiving - perhaps it is still smarting from the Government’s refusal, earlier this year, to give it its very own Superman outfit. A spokesman for the ICO said: “Whilst it is right for organisations to be careful before releasing personal information, this case demonstrates an absence of common sense. In the circumstances it was obvious that the seven-year-old child would not have ordered the Superman suit himself. Further, M&S were not being asked to release any personal information. They were simply being told that a yellow belt was missing from the order.

    "The DPA gives us all important rights, requiring organisations to keep our personal information accurate, up-to-date and secure. Misuse of the Act has the potential to devalue it and confuse individuals."

    Whilst episodes like this are always good for a giggle, they do highlight serious issues over the way in which organisations use the DPA: a preference for “playing safe” is too often used to block public access to data that should not be blocked.

    A variant on this problem was highlighted earlier this summer by Professor Ross Anderson, Chairman of the Foundation for Information Policy Research. In a report for the Information Commissioner on Children’s Databases, he notes the Gillick precedent. This establishes that a child’s parents should normally be involved in matters of consent, but exceptionally, “the child may exercise the consent function to the exclusion of the parent if he or she insists on it and has the maturity to understand the consequences”.

    However, according to Professor Anderson, “This has been routinely turned into a principle that anyone over 13 can consent to sharing sensitive personal information without the involvement of their parents. In some circumstances the consent is obtained coercively, with implied threats of loss of access to services. This is unlawful.”

    Nonetheless, it is an approach increasingly adopted by government departments – and used as justification for excluding parents from significant decisions about the processing of their children’s data.

    This is a murky area – a goldmine for lawyers – but as the various government initiatives in respect of children’s data move forward over the next 12 months, expect to hear a lot more about it. ®


    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09...s_sparks_data/
    We live in the dumbest world on the planet and there's no colour the sky can't be at any given time. Remember that!
    http://dancedwiththetester.blogspot.co.uk/
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  2. #2
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    Re: Good Ole Data Protection Act, I feel safe.

    LOL!

    "Hi there, this is John calling from Some Pet Store. Could you please put me on with Mr. Barnaby Jones McSpottypants?"

    "Actually, that's my dog."

    "I understand, Miss, but I need to speak with him only please."

    "With my dog?"

    "Yup, I do apologize."

    "Ok."

    *Panting*

    "Mr. McSpottypants? I'm calling from Soem Pet Store regarding your complaint about a rawhide bone that came untied."

    *Panting*
    .
    .
    "Mr. McSpottypants? Hello?"

    *Panting*
    *Panting*
    *Panting*

    "Do you think this is funny? Do You? I'm trying to help you here."

    *Panting*
    *Panting*

    "I'm sorry Mr. McSpottypants, I'm not going to be able to help you if you continue to make a mockery of my attempts to assist you. Can I reveal your information to your owner?"

    *woof*

    "I'm sorry, I really need a yes or no answer here. Just yes or no is fine"

    *woof*

    "Mr. McSpottypants, the only way I can assist you is if you give me expressed permission to speak to your owner on your behalf."

    *woof**Woof*

    "Mr. McSpottypants, I'm really getting sick of these childish games. I'm afraid I can't continue this call if you won't cooperate with me."

    *woof* "Good, there's a cat here I need to chase now. Thanks for calling." *Click*

    "Oh man, I hate my job"
    Brent
    --------------------
    9 out of 10 people I prove wrong agree that I'm right. The other person is my wife.
    --------------------

  3. #3
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    Re: Good Ole Data Protection Act, I feel safe.

    On a serious note, I have the same propblem. My wife is aphasic, and can only use a few words. Often she uses the wrong ones, and switching "yes" and "no" is one of the problems. So it is somewhere between useless and risky to put her on the phone to a customer service representative.

    I have Power of Attorney for her, but it still takes faxing a 9-page document (usually to a long-distance number) before the organization will speak to me. And even then, if it's a large government department (can you spell "Medicare?") it takes another 1-2 weeks after that before the paperwork is processed. On my first attempt, they lost the fax. On my second (a week later, when they tried to tell me they hadn't received it), I insisted on speaking with a supervisor, who, to his credit, took the new fax and processed it immediately.

    In fact, just telling you all this would probably verge on the illegal if I DIDN'T have Power of Attorney for her.

  4. #4
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    Re: Good Ole Data Protection Act, I feel safe.

    Sometimes it is almost comical. My mother has trouble with speech too and when she needed to do some financial transactions my father called the bank who, naturally, would not talk to him about her account, and my father asked them to write to her. They refused to do that on his verbal say-so. My mother wrote to the bank, expressly stating that all communication should be over letter. They responded with a line which said "Thank-you for your letter stating you cannot communicate over the phone, please call 0800 xxxxxx to discuss this further"

 

 

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