October 8, 2013 5:40 pm

Clients of rogue investigators may face criminal probe by privacy watchdog

Twelve clients of rogue investigators convicted last year for illegally obtaining personal information may face a criminal investigation by Britain’s privacy watchdog, while a further seven may be pursued through civil action, according to the information commissioner.

Following a stand-off this summer between the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the home affairs select committee on whether to make the client names public, the ICO early last month began a review of 98 of the 109 clients known to Soca.

Christopher Graham, who on Tuesday updated the committee on his investigation, called for government to revisit a plan to introduce custodial sentences for the most egregious data protection offences.

If any of the 19 clients under investigation by the ICO – which include law firms, financial services and insurance companies – are found guilty, they could face unlimited fines. However, in the past most fines resulting from ICO enforcement have been modest – often just £100 per count.

About a quarter of the 98 clients reviewed so far by the ICO were found to be abroad, and so do not directly fall under the watchdog’s jurisdiction.

The ICO’s investigation is anticipated to take eight months and cost up to £200,000.

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