The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has initiated a call for individuals who have been subjected to unwanted advances through the misuse of personal information, known as ‘text pests’, to share their experiences.
Research commissioned by the ICO highlights that nearly 29% of individuals aged 18 to 34 have encountered unwanted contact after providing personal information to businesses. Notably, 66% of the public finds it morally unacceptable to exploit personal data for romantic or sexual purposes, with only 5% viewing such behavior as morally right. The ICO aims to combat this issue by contacting major delivery companies to remind them of their legal responsibilities.
Text pests exploit personal information, such as phone numbers and email addresses, obtained in business contexts to make unwarranted romantic or sexual advances, which has raised concerns. The research further indicates that while younger generations are more likely to be affected, they are also more prone to mistakenly perceive such actions as legal. To address these concerns, the ICO is emphasizing the importance of safeguarding personal data and holding businesses accountable for ensuring data protection.
Emily Keaney, Deputy Commissioner of Regulatory Policy at the ICO, states that such misconduct should be recognized as unlawful, and customer-facing businesses have a responsibility to prevent misuse of personal data.
The ICO’s call for evidence aims to collect real-life accounts of the impact of ‘text pests’ and seeks to gather insights from the public to inform their regulatory efforts. This initiative is part of broader efforts to protect individuals’ personal data and privacy. The survey findings reveal that the majority of the public finds exploiting personal information for romantic or sexual advances morally wrong, and the ICO’s action is expected to raise awareness and prevent further misuse of personal data.