Make Friends With Data Protection

I have, on occasion, been accused of being a little impatient. I like to pick up the phone, ask a question, get an answer, say a cheery goodbye and move on with my day. The reality is that after being kept on hold listening to music, or being told that my call is important, or better still, playing “hunt the option”, a human will say hello. It is then their job to establish that they are talking to the right person, usually through the use of “security questions”. It can seem all a bit inconvenient, especially as I have heard it done quite badly over the years.

Ultimately, data protection is there for all our safety. There is an ever increasing chance that any of us may fall victim to identity theft or some other cyber crime. But what if we are trying to help someone else by calling on their behalf? If the data protection rules are being adhered to  properly, you will be politely told to go away and get the account or policy holders permission before they can talk to you. This is where everyone can help themselves with a little planning. All you have to do is let a company know who they can talk to.

Take the example of a couple living together in a house. They decide to take out house insurance and it is left to one of them to make the arrangements. They go online, or fill out forms and, in the absence of the other partner, just go ahead with their own details. It does, I assure you, happen a lot. Move forward some time and a claim arises. The partner who was not involved in the setting up of the plan calls to get the ball rolling and immediately is told that as they are not the policyholder, no information can be exchanged with them.

Another example, a little closer to my own situation. An elderly relative, living on their own, goes into hospital for a short while. During which time I am called upon to deal with some routine matters. Arrangements have been put in place for me to talk to some places, but others I came across for the first time and they, quite correctly, refuse to deal with me.

There is justification  for everyone letting the companies and organisations they deal with know who it is ok to talk to if you’re not around. All you have to do is let them know with a letter or email, who has permission to talk on your behalf if you are unwell, away or just simply unavailable. Don’t forget to give them the persons contact details as well because the company might be having difficulty contacting you.

Who should you tell?

In short, everyone you have dealings with, either as a client or service user. The list could go on and on, but typically would include:

  • Insurance Companies

  • Bank & Building Societies
  • PensionProviders
  • Local Authorities
  • Doctors
  • Utility Providers


Here’s a sample letter you can send:

And here’s a link if you would like to download and use it. Letter of Authority You can amend it to suit the situation, but make sure you include the full details of who you are giving authority to and remeber that it must be dated.  As you can see, it’ need only be short and to the point but sending such an authority can save a whole lot of hassle.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I’ve had concerns about data protection for years now. “Confidentiality” is a term used without enough thought given to what it really means. A friend of mine over in Ireland was moaning about the national Census that took place there last month. “Confidentiality is Guaranteed” it stated on the form he said. The forms contain a lot of sensitive info about people. Yet, they’re collected rather than mailed in to a central authority. The person collecting the form has to review it to ensure it’s been filled out correctly. That’s the end of confidentiality right there. “How many other people get to see the form?” he wondered.

    He’s got a point. Anywhere there’s a human in the data chain between point A and point B, confidentiality is compromised. A lot of the time, we have no idea about what information is being collected about us, nor by whom. And it’s done without our permission or plays to our lack of understanding about the use of cookies when we visit websites.

    Our information is packaged up, used to profile us and sold on to third parties, all generally without our consent. And if that information happens to be wrong, we may never know, even though that incorrect information can be used in prejudice against us.

    Maybe a bad credit score was incorrectly recorded somewhere and when you go looking for a loan some time later you get refused and then have to battle to correct the bad information.

    A more insidious use of information is where medical data is concerned. Because you visited a site about cancer treatments, an insurance company might decine to offer you medical coverage in the event you did get cancer. Or what if you buy a DNA kit to have your genome profiled and genetic predispositions to certain diseases are uncovered and an insurance company gets hold of that info? Suddenly, you won’t be allowed to insure against those diseases.

    Legislation moves at a much slower pace than technology and the gap between what data protection should do for us and what is happening in the real world is just getting wider.

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