In January 2014, Andrew Skelton, an apparently disgruntled employee of Morrisons Supermarket posted a file containing the personal data (including salaries, bank details, and National Insurance numbers) of 99,998 Morrisons’ employees on a file-sharing website. It seems his intention was to cause mass-scale damage to the supermarket. In March 2014, a CD containing the data was sent to three UK newspapers, one of whom alerted Morrisons. Chief among the company’s concerns was the possibility of the data being used to aid theft or identity theft from the staff concerned. They acted quickly to get the file removed from the Internet within a few hours.
In a widely-reported settlement, the American vlogger Chrissy Chambers has recovered damages from her former British boyfriend – anonymised in the High Court proceedings as “DCR”.
If one recent survey is to be believed, nearly a quarter of Britons use dating apps. A dating app is a smart phone application which typically allows the user to search or “swipe” through other singles – often presented like a never-ending deck of cards. If the user swipes right, this indicates that they ‘like’ the person. When the same person swipes right, this generates a “match” and each individual has the facility to instant message one another, thus enabling – in theory – a romance to blossom. The best known app of this type is Tinder, but it is a model that has been used or varied by several different platforms.
Snapchat is a multimedia messaging mobile application (app) that allows users to send videos and photos to their contacts. The recipient can normally only view an image/video for a limited period of time (perhaps just a few seconds). This encourages some users to send risqué (sometimes explicit) images/videos to one another. This feature is far from foolproof. A receiving party may take a screenshot of the image or a photo and/or video of the screen with a separate digital camera/phone.
Part of the appeal of WhatsApp, the instant messaging service, is that it allows you to join groups from which you can send messages and pictures to other participants across the globe with relative ease and at no cost. Gone are the days when parties or other social events are organised by email or invitations sent by post (at least amongst younger generations). WhatsApp provides immediacy and is user-friendly. No surprise, then, that Facebook bought it for £11.4bn in 2014.
The University of East Anglia (UEA) has admitted accidentally sending an email containing students’ highly sensitive personal information to 298 American Studies undergraduates. The email in question attached a spreadsheet which contained “extenuating circumstances” justifying extensions for work and other academic concessions. These are understood to include details of illnesses, bereavements and other personal matters.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (‘IICSA’) has referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) after accidentally disclosing the identities of 90 victims of sexual abuse who had signed up via its website.
The General Medical Council (GMC) has issued updated guidelines (to come into force on 25 April 2017) providing a stricter and definitive means of determining whether or not to disclose confidential medical information. The Guidance, which can be found here, contains eight principles of good practice in handling patient information and includes a requirement to ask for explicit consent to disclose indentifiable information about a patient and to only disclosure information that is relevant to the request made.
A recent decision by Nicol J in ERY v Associated Newspapers Ltd  EWHC 2760 (QB) has found that a suspect in a police investigation has a reasonable expectation of privacy which is likely to trump the press’s right to freedom of expression.