While the Cambridge Analytica scandal keeps the headline writers toiling away, the Information Commissioner’s Office is continuing its clampdown on so-called nuisance calls by raiding business premises near Glasgow, as part of an investigation into a company suspected of making over 200 million illegal nuisance calls.
According to the regulator, some of the calls potentially put people’s safety at risk as they were made to Network Rail’s Banavie Control Centre, and clogged up the line for drivers and pedestrians at unmanned level crossings, who were calling to check it was safe to cross the rails.
The ICO said it will not be naming the business while the investigation is ongoing.
The search warrant in Clydebank was prompted by complaints from the public about automated nuisance calls promoting boiler and window replacement schemes. The calls, which contain recorded messages, often aligned themselves to non-existent Scottish or UK Government initiatives.
Computer equipment and documents were seized for analysis during the search, and will now be used to inform the ICO’s investigation. The ICO has powers to issue fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which cover the way organisations make automated direct marketing telephone calls.
Head of ICO Scotland Ken Macdonald said: “These calls have caused millions of people disruption, annoyance and distress, but not only this, those made to a control centre charged with public safety may have endangered lives.
“Companies behind nuisance calls should know that people are sick of them, and when people complain to us, we will act.”
The 200 million plus calls the firm is suspected of making is one of the highest volumes the ICO has ever executed a search warrant in relation to. The highest amount of calls ever to result in an ICO fine is 146 million.
Meanwhile, the regulator has confirmed that it spent seven hours inspecting the premises of Cambridge Analytica on Friday night, entering the building at 8pm and not leaving until 3am Saturday morning.
A spokesman said: “We will now need to assess and consider the evidence before deciding the next steps and coming to any conclusions. This is one part of a larger investigation by the ICO into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors.”
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