Various news sources are reporting that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office found the Liberal Democrats breached privacy and electronic communications regulations when they made automated phone calls to 250,000 constituents after a speech by the party leader. According to the ICO press release (pdf):
Last week the Liberal Democrats made a substantial number of automated calls featuring a recorded message from Nick Clegg to households across the country. After reviewing the phone script the ICO concluded that the calls were made for the purpose of promoting the Liberal Democrats and therefore constituted direct marketing.
In addition, the ICO has now received a number of complaints from those who received calls without giving their prior consent. The Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations forbid the use of automated unsolicited direct marketing calls to any individual who has not previously given their consent to receive such calls.
The ICO issued an Enforcement Notice (pdf), which is “a legal order to stop the activity within 30 days. Breach of an Enforcement Notice is a criminal offence and could lead to prosecution. The Party has a right to appeal within 28 days.”
The Enforcement Notice showed that the Liberal Democrats went ahead with the 250,000 automated calls even though the ICO had told them earlier in the day that the calls would likely violate privacy and electronic communications laws.