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  1. ITV Report

Bounty pregnancy club fined £400,000 for sharing 14 million people's personal information

Bounty collected personal information from new mothers at hospital bedsides and shared their data. Credit: AP

A pregnancy and parenting club has been fined £400,000 for illegally sharing personal information belonging to more than 14 million people.

Bounty collected personal information for the purpose of membership registration from new mothers at hospital bedsides website plus through their mobile app and merchandise pack claim cards.

The company also operated as a data broking service until April 30 2018, supplying data to third parties for the purpose of electronic direct marketing, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found.

Bounty breached the Data Protection Act 1998 by sharing personal information with a number of organisations without being fully clear with people that it might do so.

Bounty collected personal information through their mobile app and merchandise pack claim cards. Credit: Bounty

The company shared around 34.4 million records between June 2017 and April 2018 with credit reference and marketing agencies, including Acxiom, Equifax, Indicia and Sky.

These organisations represented the four largest recipients out of a total of 39 organisations which Bounty confirmed it shared personal data with.

The personal information shared was not only of potentially vulnerable, new mothers or mothers-to-be but also of very young children, including the birth date and sex of a child.

Data about very young children, including the birth date and sex of a child, was shared. Credit: AP

Steve Eckersley, ICO’s Director of Investigations, said: “The number of personal records and people affected in this case is unprecedented in the history of the ICO’s investigations into data broking industry and organisations linked to this.

“Bounty were not open or transparent to the millions of people that their personal data may be passed on to such large number of organisations.

"Any consent given by these people was clearly not informed. Bounty’s actions appear to have been motivated by financial gain, given that data sharing was an integral part of their business model at the time.

“Such careless data sharing is likely to have caused distress to many people, since they did not know that their personal information was being shared multiple times with so many organisations, including information about their pregnancy status and their children.”

The investigation found that for online registrations, Bounty’s privacy notices had a reasonably clear description of the organisations they might share information with, but none of the four largest recipients were listed.

Additionally, none of the merchandise pack claim cards and offline registration methods had an opt-in for marketing purposes.

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Jim Kelleher, Managing Director of Bounty said: "We acknowledge the ICO’s findings – in the past we did not take a broad enough view of our responsibilities and as a result our data-sharing processes, specifically with regards to transparency, were not robust enough. This was not of the standard expected of us.

"However, the ICO has recognised that these are historical issues. Our priority is to continue to provide a valuable service for new parents that is both helpful and trusted. As the ICO has highlighted, we made significant changes to our processes in Spring 2018, reducing the number of personal records we retain and for how long we keep them, ending relationships with the small number of data brokerage companies with whom we previously worked and implementing robust GDPR training for our staff.

"Our ‘Bounty Promise’ sets out our continued commitment to carefully look after our members’ personal information. And to ensure our promise is never broken, we will appoint an independent data expert to check how we are doing every year and we will publish their findings annually on the Bounty website."