When Mark Lloyd thought about starting a new role at a rival to his existing employer, Acorn Waste Management, he probably thought he could do with a little help to impress his new employer.
What better way than sending himself details of 957 of Acorn Waste Management's clients to his personal email address just before he left?
The temptation is clear: people leaving a job want to take their black book of contacts with them and as much knowledge and experience as they possibly can. However, they have to draw the line at taking client records.
In this case, the documents Lloyd sent to himself contained personal information, including the contact details and purchase history of customers and commercially sensitive records.
Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), said that taking client records containing personal information to a new job without permission is a criminal offence.
"Employees need to be aware that documents containing personal data they have produced or worked on belong to their employer and are not theirs to take with them when they leave," he said.
But what is there to stop the likes of Lloyd taking client records? Well, in his case a paltry fine of £300.
Now, some might say that a fine of £300, along with a victim surcharge of £30 and £405.98 in costs, is enough to stop people taking client records from one employer to another, but I disagree.
The truth is that if Lloyd wasn't caught his new employer could have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds of business away from his former employer.
He may have also been rewarded for picking up new clients with bonuses and a pay rise that far outstrip the £700 he has had to fork out. So the potential damage of Lloyd's actions don't really equate to such a small fine.
And perhaps more importantly, the minuscule sum won't deter other people trying to do the same. After all, the rewards far outweigh the possible risks. If X was about to switch jobs, he or she might think: 'It's only £300 if I get caught.'
So what would deter X? Well, for starters a fine aligned more closely to the damage that could have been done. The courts need to make a statement here. Another problem is that such an offence is currently punishable only with a fine in a magistrates' or crown court.
The ICO has called for more effective sentences, including the threat of prison, to stop this unlawful use of personal information.
All Eckersley is currently able to say by way of a warning is: "Don't risk a day in court by being ignorant of the law." A day in court? Is that it?
There will be many more cases of people getting away with insignificant fines as it stands. The penalties should be raised significantly, and hopefully other deterrents, including prison sentences, will be handed to those who commit this crime in the future.
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