Is your firm violating the Data Protection Act or begging for a hack of its Twitter account? (updated)

ThreeUK, who claim to have a 45% share of all mobile traffic in the UK, has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. They also have a dangerous practice of requesting customers provide personal details such as full name, phone number, postcode, and date of birth via direct messages (DM) to their support team, e.g., this tweet to a customer:

Yesterday, Quentyn Taylor tried to educate them that this practice was risky and might even violate Principle 7 of the UK’s Data Protection Act. Principle 7 states:

Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office explains what that means in a guidance on their site.  Given how often we have seen corporate Twitter accounts hacked, can ThreeUK or any other corporate Twitter account really provide adequate security for personal information provided by DMs?  Or as Quentyn notes, is ThreeUK inviting problems with its practice: 


I wouldn’t be surprised, either.

When neither @ThreeUK nor @ThreeUKSupport responded to Quentyn’s tweets, I tweeted:

So far, though, nothing’s changed, as this tweet to a customer from this morning illustrates:

Obviously, I’m no expert on the UK’s Data Protection Act, but I do hope the ICO offers some comments on this issue – and that American corporations with Twitter social media teams also think long and hard about the risks here.

Thanks to Quentyn for making me aware of this matter.

UPDATE:  @ThreeUKSupport did answer Quentyn later today:

I wonder if the DPA team consulted with the ICO. In any event, even if it is legal (and I’m still not sure it is),  it’s a risky behavior that I would recommend avoiding.

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