ICO tells agents to improve handling of personal data
Agents have been warned by an official watchdog for the way they handle clients’ personal data.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now issued a report with a string of observations after visiting a series of letting and estate agents’ offices.
The observations included:
– Staff having little formal training in data protection;
– Vendors, landlords and tenants not being always told how their personal information would be used;
– Customer data being kept for longer than necessary;
– A lack of awareness about the importance of using technical security controls like encryption;
– Paper records containing personal data not being kept securely.
The ICO found that although a significant number of agents reported disposing of paper records relating to sales and lettings, still 10% were keeping this information indefinitely and 39% were keeping electronic information relating to residential lettings indefinitely.
The report has eight pages of advice on how agencies can improve their practices to ensure they stay in line with the Data Protection Act.
The ICO has the power to fine organisations that fail to follow the law up to £500,000.
Leanne Doherty, Good Practice Group Manager at the ICO commented: “The series of visits we carried out suggested a limited understanding of data protection. It was particularly concerning that people weren’t being told clearly how their information was being used, and that their data was being kept longer than necessary. We’d urge agents to take the time to look at our recommendations and to make changes to improve what they’re doing. The prevention measures we list are far less painful than the cure of a £500,000 fine.”
You can see the report and all recommendations – here