Ever wondered how a persistent telemarketer obtained your phone number? Some 200 million of these calls were made in only two years thanks to Vodafone Spain, say regulators…
Vodafone Spain was fined a record €8.15m last week for aggressive telemarketing tactics and other data security violations. The fine is the highest the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) has ever imposed, eclipsing the previous holder, a €6m fine imposed on CaixaBank in January.
The €8.15m is the total of four fines, two of which are for violations of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (totaling €6 million). Another, worth €2m, is for breaking other Spanish telecommunications and digital rights laws. The smallest fine, €150,000, was imposed in accordance with a technical Spanish law over cookies.
The decision is the result of 191 complaints about the mobile phone company’s data-processing and consent practices, according to the AEPD. Vodafone’s “omissions” are numerous, and the regulator mentioned many of them in its Decision notice.The most serious breach, however, occurred when the Spanish mobile giant approved an international data transfer in violation of GDPR regulations, resulting in customers receiving numerous calls, emails, and SMS messages despite requesting to be removed from marketing lists.
Even worse, AEPD concluded that even if Vodafone wanted to avoid this, the company lacks the organisational and technical capacity to determine whether or not their customers want to avoid unwanted advertising. According to the ruling, Vodafone outsourced so many of its operations that it has no real control over how customer information is used. Furthermore, there is no legal documentation requiring any data protection guarantees for Vodafone subscribers.
The Data Protection Agency decided to impose such a large fine because this is not the first time Vodafone Spain has violated GDPR regulations. From January 2018 to February 2020, the company received more than 50 fines and warnings. The regulator has received 162 different complaints and estimates that approximately 200 million illegal marketing calls have been made to unsuspecting customers during this time period. If you ever wondered, “How did they get this number?”, now you know how.
Vodafone Spain will appeal the decision, it has announced, and claims that it has sufficient capacity to ensure the security of its data. It’s not clear who this message is aimed at: the regulators who fined them after establishing the facts, or the subscribers who suspect their data will be sold on the “free market” as soon as they sign the contract.
Some commenters worry that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with data trading being such profitable business, particularly for large corporations with millions of subscribers.
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