ICO claims 'significant progress' in war on spam texts


The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) claims to have made significant progress in finding those responsible for bothering UK citizens with mobile spam.

The data protection watchdog today said it was almost certain it knew who was behind spam messages, but it needed more evidence to punish them.

The ICO has learned messages are being sent from unregistered pay-as-you-go SIM cards and has raided an office in the north of England as part of its investigations.

We've built a case that these people are causing damage and distress.

It said it was planning to execute more search warrants in the future.

"We've built a case that these people are causing damage and distress," an ICO spokesperson told IT Pro. "What we need to do is to be able to enforce action against them, is to gather more evidence.

"We are urging people to come forward with any information."

She confirmed the ICO would be able to fine those responsible up to 500,000.

The ICO has been working with various bodies in the UK to crack down on spam texting, including the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.

Data has indicated around 8 million spam texts are sent in the UK every day.

An ICO survey found 681 of 1,014 respondents said they had received a concerning spam text, feeling troubled about how their data had been obtained. Another 205 complained of the texts being inconvenient.

"There is also clearly a lot to be gained in raising public awareness about these messages. People need to realise that the numbers are randomly generated and that they shouldn't respond, even when encouraged to text back 'stop,' said director of operations Simon Entwisle.

"One particular concern is the distress these texts may be causing to vulnerable people. Our survey has shown that 12 people found the texts helpful and had used the service it offered - unfortunately that may be enough incentive for the individuals behind this to carry on sending them."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.