(CMR) In its latest decision, the Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DoA) to immediately stop the collection of personal data from customers who purchase retail goods. An enforcement order was issued under the Data Protection Act with a 30-day compliance requirement. They are also being instructed to delete any personal data that has been collected without a legal basis to do so.
The decision was disclosed their morning and made after a member of the public submitted a formal complaint stating that “the DoA was unnecessarily collecting personal data from individuals purchasing retail goods such as plants and trees.” The information collected including the person's name, street address, postal address, district, email address and contact phone number.
They noted in their order that:
On 25 November 2020, we notified the DoA of a complaint we had received against them under section 43 of the DPA. The DoA is a data controller as defined in section 2 of the DPA. The complainant was concerned about the DoA's practice of collecting and storing what he felt to be unnecessary personal data of customers who were buying low-cost, non-life-threatening goods such as plants and fruit trees from the DoA’s retail location.
The Ombudsman's office indicated that in their investigation they found that there was no “privacy notification process” in place. Such a policy would have informed the customer who was processing the information and the specific purpose the information would be used for.
They noted that:
In every transaction, whether in the public or private sector, a data controller should collect only the minimum personal data needed for a specified purpose. Customers have a right to know who is processing their information, for what purpose, and all processing must be conducted fairly and legally.
She also found that DoA had no legal basis for processing the personal data and collecting the information was “unnecessary and excessive”. DoA has 30 days to comply with the order or can appeal the decision within 45 days.