UK’s ICO fines ACS:Law for data breach (updated)

John Oates reports:

ACS:Law has been fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office for failing to follow data protection law.

The one-man law firm, which has since ceased trading, won infamy for using IP numbers to accuse people of illegal file-sharing. Victims received a letter offering to settle the claims rather than go to court. But ACS:Law never took anyone to court, and some judges doubted whether it ever had the legal basis to do so.

The ICO said it would have fined ACS:Law £200,000 for failing to keep information secure, but since it’s gone titsup it will instead fine Andrew Crossley as an individual.

Crossley has been served with notice to pay a fine of £1,000 because he has limited means.

Read more in The Register. Links to previous coverage of the ACS:Law breach can be found on DataBreaches.net.

In a press release issued today, the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“This case proves that a company’s failure to keep information secure can have disastrous consequences. Sensitive personal details relating to thousands of people were made available for download to a worldwide audience and will have caused them embarrassment and considerable distress. The security measures ACS Law had in place were barely fit for purpose in a person’s home environment, let alone a business handling such sensitive details.”

[…]

In September 2010, ACS Law’s website was subjected to an online attack which caused it to crash. After the attack a file containing emails between ACS Law staff, and some to and from ISPs or members of the public, appeared on a website which allowed anyone who downloaded the file access to around 6,000 people’s sensitive personal information. This included individuals’ ISP account details, their names and addresses, their IP addresses and information about the content they were alleged to have illegally copied. Some of the emails also included people’s credit card details, as well as references to their sex life, health and financial status.

The monetary penalty served on Andrew Jonathan Crossley is available on the ICO
website here: http://www.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/promoting_data_privacy/~/media/documents/library/Data_Protection/Notices/acs_law_monetary_penalty_notice.ashx

Update: The ICO is being criticized by Privacy International for only fining Crossley £1,000 as an individual instead of fining the firm £200,000. Read more in The Guardian.

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