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Fine. Absolutely fine. It makes sense. It is sensible. It is sensible data protection.
The problems start when everybody else wants to get in on the act. If data protection is sensible than we should have it too.
Again, that is fine and dandy if you happen to be a company that holds personal information for what ever reason.
Clearly you can’t just tell any old voice down the telephone all about Mrs Jones and her hemorroids, or Mr Smith and his arrest forty years ago for sexually abusing sheep, nor what Mrs Brown has in her savings account.
If you work in an environment were you are privy to information about people that could be used to harm them in some way, or simply even embarrass them, you need to use data protection laws to help you make sure you don’t reveal things that shouldn’t be revealed.
Everybody gets that.
Its when companies start saying ‘data protection’ for absolutely everything that we start to wonder whether, like so many laws, it has started to get somewhat out of hand.
A good example occurred about twenty minutes ago as it happens. I was speaking to my daughter on the telephone.
A company called ‘Mothercare’ had sold my daughter and her partner a pram for the forthcoming baby. Said pram was delivered and my daughter began assembling it, her partner being at work.
A piece was missing. Not an essential piece. A cup holder where you could have a bottle of water when you were pushing the pram and baby about in warm weather.
She rang ‘Mothercare’ and was asked for the order number, which she gave. The order is in her partners name.
“We must speak to your partner” said Mothercare.
“It’s a cup holder that’s missing is all” replied my daughter.
“We must speak to your partner or have his permission to speak to you” was the Mothercare mantra.
My daughter is polite and patient, so said she would get her partner to call back tomorrow. Perhaps, fortunately, her mother was more influential in her behavior learning than I was.
My response would have been “It’s a fucking pram that we’ve paid for you moron. All I want is a bloody cup holder! Now send me a frigging cup holder and get a life!!”
Diplomacy, I admit, is not always a strong point for me.
You see? The madness of data protection when it is used wrongly.
Precisely how could ‘Mothercare’ have prejudiced their customer regarding a missing cup holder on a pram? It’s a pram with a missing cup holder, not a bank account with a million pounds in it you dipsticks!
It happened to me a while back. A few years back actually.
My wife was seriously unwell – she made a full recovery and is better than she ever was by the way.
In this instance it was a bank, so, understandably, data protection was far more relevant than it is for a pram.
I needed to pay off one of her credit cards. She’d already decided to get rid of it as we didn’t need it anymore so, she was about to pay it off and cut it up but fell ill.
I explained this to the bank in question.
“We have to speak to your wife, the card holder”
“She is in intensive care at the moment”
“We can’t speak to you, we must speak to your wife”
“But I want to pay the card off in full, not take money. I’m giving you money to pay it off”
“We must speak to the cardholder”
“Either you let me pay it off in full, or I will cancel the direct debit and you get nothing until I feel like it”
Now, clearly, if I didn’t meet the monthly payments, interest would accrue. However, as we could afford it, I decided to be bloody minded and cancelled the direct debit.
The bank called and asked to speak to my wife.
“She’s in intensive care”
“You have not paid the direct debit payment”
“I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you as it’s my wife’ card.”
“The payment has not been made”
“I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you as it’s not my card. Goodbye”
This little conversation occurred over a dozen times. In the meantime, my wife came out of intensive care, but still required a while recuperating, so, I protected her from this madness and she never knew.
Eventually, the bank agreed to let me pay off the credit card. They didn’t want to, but they knew when they were beaten.
I just refused to acknowledge them. “I can’t talk to you under data protection laws” became my mantra. I used their attitude on them and they didn’t like it. I beat them too. True, it cost a few pounds in interest but it was worth every penny.
I would give you even more details about this but, you understand, I wouldn’t want to breach data protection laws now would I?
Oh yes. I must ring Mothercare now. Let’s have some fun.