Wednesday, November 18, 2009

T Mobile Data Scandal - why I'm not surprised

I was horrified to discover yesterday that thousands of T-Mobile customers had had their personal information sold on to third parties by some of the company's staff.

I might have been more sympathetic towards T-Mobile if it hadn't been for this incident I blogged about last year which to me showed that their attitude to personal data was at best nonchalant.

I wrote then:

"Anyway, I opened my mobile phone bill yesterday to find a letter from them saying they were switching me to online billing. All well and good, until I got to the bottom of the sheaf of paper they'd sent me and found another letter, addressed to somebody else, giving the same information. This letter contained this person's name, address, mobile phone number and log-in details for their account on T-Mobile's website. Had I been of criminal mind, I could probably have done quite a bit of mischief with that information."

I phoned them to let them know what the problem was and the person I spoke to in their call centre was downright rude. They didn't apologise, nor did they give any indication that they recognised that this was a serious breach of confidentiality.

I'm glad to see that Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne has recognised both the shortcomings in the law and the potential for further misuse with the sheer amount of data that these companies are required to hold:

“This shameful incident shows the disdain with which some companies treat sensitive personal data.

“Stiffer penalties for those involved in serious data breaches, whether in the public or private sector, cannot be introduced soon enough.

“This sorry episode questions the Government’s wisdom in getting communications providers to hoard increasing amounts of information about us.”

This, after all, is a Government that wants to require ISPs to keep records of e-mails and every website their customers visit which is a gross invasion of privacy to start with. What's happened with T-Mobile shows how that very personal information could be mis-used.

I think I did get some calls from people around the time I was due my upgrade last year. I couldn't rightly say because, to be honest, when people ring up to sell me stuff, they usually get a flea in their ear. If they are charities, or the Liberal Democrats, or telephone canvassers, fair enough, but I just won't buy anything over the phone from any company because I have no way of verifying that the call is genuine.

I want to know from T-Mobile whether my information was involved, and exactly what these people stole about me and I expect definitive answers from them.

Andrew has helpfully commented on the statements given by the company and found them wanting as he is with them too.

My problem is that whatever T-Mobile says, they have a bit of a credibility problem with me. I want to see evidence before I believe a word they say.

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