mobile phone users

Staff at a UK mobile phone company sold millions of records from thousands of customers without their knowledge, the information watchdog says.

Christopher Graham told the BBC that the details had been allegedly sold on to brokers for substantial sums.

They were allegedly used by other firms to cold-call customers of the unnamed firm as their contracts neared expiry.

The suspected breach emerged after the firm alerted the watchdog. Mr Graham is planning to prosecute those involved.

Mr Graham, the Information Commissioner appointed earlier this year, said the case he was now preparing illustrated why there needed to be a prison sentence to prevent people from selling private data to third parties.

Search warrants

The BBC understands that investigators from the Information Commissioner’s Office have been working with the company.

It reported suspicions of an unlawful trade in customers’ data and the ICO’s team obtained search warrants to enter premises.

Mr Graham said: "Many people will have wondered why and how they are being contacted by someone they do not know just before their existing phone contract is about to expire.

"We are considering the evidence with a view to prosecuting those responsible and I am keen to go much further and close down the entire unlawful industry in personal data.

"But, we will only be able to do this if blaggers and others who trade in personal data face the threat of a prison sentence.

"The existing paltry fines… are simply not enough to deter people from engaging in this lucrative criminal activity. The threat of jail, not fines, will prove a stronger deterrent."

This article is from the BBC News website. © British Broadcasting Corporation, The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.