Opinion  

Financial firms are responsible for data trading

Financial firms are responsible for data trading

The revelation that intimate financial and medical details are being sold to firms with dubious intentions should have sent shockwaves through the financial community. But it probably will not.

The Daily Mail last week revealed that financial details were being sold for as little as 5p while medical details were being sold for less than 20p.

But where are the firms who are flogging these data to cold callers obtaining it?

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One claimed the data had come from Sesame – an accusation Sesame vigorously denied. It examined the details sold to reporters and confirmed these did not match its records.

The information being traded includes precise details of mortgages, pension savings and other investments. It also covers medical records, some of which appear to be based on insurance claims.

So where is this level of detail coming from? The information can only be from financial companies, whether it is being sold or stolen.

Neither reflects well on the industry, suggesting that intimate data are either regarded as a tradable commodity or are not being properly protected. In some cases it appears that data are being held after they should have been deleted.

Firms are all too eager to collect our personal information these days. Boots Opticians attempted to gain details of my address and birthdate when I bought a pair of sunglasses.

We have become used to personal questions being slipped in among essential ones so we can no longer distinguish the questions we must answer from those that are merely prying.

Financial firms have long been collecting and sharing data as a means of cracking down on fraud. It can be difficult for customers to tick a box allowing sharing for money laundering and fraud checks but preventing it for other uses.

A line must now be drawn under the sharing of data. No financial firm should be allowed to pass on data for marketing or sales purposes.

That data have been revealed confidentially in order to buy a product or in the spirit of honesty when buying insurance. They should not be traded for profit.

By doing this firms have exposed their clients to the risk of fraud.

Of course, it may be that some of the data comes from other sources such as loyalty cards or those surveys that ping up on our computer screens with depressing regularity.

But where the financial community has been involved in the release of data it must now bear the responsibility for once again putting profit above moral behaviour.

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I worked my way up – for this?

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