Your emails contain a treasure trove of personal information about you. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, anyone collecting this data is required to tell you how it will be used and to use it only for that purpose.
If you know an organisation holds personal data about you, you can require they reveal what information they have - although they may charge you a fee to do this. If the organisation fails to comply, you can report them to the Information Commissioner.
Note also that under section 11 of the Data Protection Act, you can require anyone possessing your personal data to stop using it. If the person fails to comply, you can complain to the Information Commissioner and/or apply for a court order.
What about organisations that keep sending me unwanted marketing emails?
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 prohibits organisations sending you marketing messages without first obtaining your express consent unless:
- they obtained your details through the "sale or negotiations for the sale" of a product or service;
- the messages relate to similar products or services offered by the sender; and
- you had a simple chance to refuse to the use of your personal data at the time it was collected and, if you did not refuse, you have a simple way to opt out in every subsequent communication.
The Data Protection Act also stipulates that organisations should handle customers' personal data with appropriate care. This is especially important in financial services, law and healthcare. Businesses and public bodies in these and other fields should not transmit sensitive data via unsecured and unencrypted emails. This is because it is comparatively easy to read and/or modify such emails while they're in transit. Moreover, since it's relatively easy to intercept email in transit, criminals can access and then exploit sensitive personal and financial data.
Section 13 of the Data Protection Act allows you to claim compensation for any contravention of the Act that causes you injury of distress.
Getting professional help
There are many solicitors and other professionals who can help you with email privacy issues. One way to find a quality-assured solicitor who can best meet your needs without spending hours researching is to use a free solicitor matching service, like Contact Law.