ICO fines online pharmacy £130,000 for selling patient data

The UK's data watchdog has fined an online pharmacy 130,000 for selling its customers' details to marketers.

Initially uncovered by a Daily Mail investigation, Pharmacy 2U was found to have more than 100,000 people's personal information up for sale, with 20,000 confirmed as sold.

The data included customers' names and addresses, as well as medical conditions such as Parkinson's Disease, erectile dysfunction and asthma, with records sold in bulk, costing 130 for 1,000.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) fined the company 130,000 for breaking the first rule of the Data Protection Act, which deals with fair use of data.

David Smith, ICO Deputy Commissioner said in a statement: "Patient confidentiality is drummed into pharmacists. It is inconceivable that a business in this sector could believe these actions were acceptable. Put simply, a reputable company has made a serious error of judgement, and today faces the consequences of that.

"It should send out a clear message to other companies that the customer data they hold is not theirs to do with as they wish."

In at least two instances of sold records, the purchasers were associated with some kind of regulatory sanctions, with one cautioned for misleading advertising, whilethe ICO said that one lottery firm appeared to target "elderly and vulnerable individuals".

The watchdog warned that sold personal data can be passed on repeatedly after the initial sale, spreading their details far and wide.

"Once people's personal information has been sold on once in this way, we often see it then get sold on again and again," Smith said. "People are left wondering why so many companies are contacting them and how they come to be in receipt of their details."

Adam Shepherd

Adam Shepherd has been a technology journalist since 2015, covering everything from cloud storage and security, to smartphones and servers. Over the course of his career, he’s seen the spread of 5G, the growing ubiquity of wireless devices, and the start of the connected revolution. He’s also been to more trade shows and technology conferences than he cares to count.

Adam is an avid follower of the latest hardware innovations, and he is never happier than when tinkering with complex network configurations, or exploring a new Linux distro. He was also previously a co-host on the ITPro Podcast, where he was often found ranting about his love of strange gadgets, his disdain for Windows Mobile, and everything in between.

You can find Adam tweeting about enterprise technology (or more often bad jokes) @AdamShepherUK.