DATA Protection Commissioner Irene Loizidou called on presidential candidates on Friday to respect the privacy of citizens and said that the €2,200 in fines she imposed on the election campaign centre of Diko head Nicolas Papadopoulos for unsolicited calls and SMS, was a message that this practice needed to stop.
Loizidou said that she slapped Papadopoulos’ camp with three fines concerning calls and messages sent by the campaign centre earlier in the month. The commissioner said she decided on the fines as the campaign had already been warned after receiving complaints from the public for unauthorised calls and messages.
The first fine – €800 – concerns a complaint filed by a woman who said that even though she told a campaigner who had called her on October 11 that she did not wish to receive another call or telephone message from them, she received two SMS messages two and five days later from the sender ‘Nikolas2018’ inviting her to a political gathering in her area.
The campaign centre was also slapped with two €700 fines, one for calling a woman some two weeks ago and the other for sending an SMS message to another woman inviting her to a gathering in her area. Both women had said that they were not members of the party and had not given their consent to receive calls or messages from the campaigners.
“I wanted to send out the message that this practice must stop,” Loizidou told the Cyprus News Agency.
The commissioner had reprimanded Papadopoulos’ campaign centre last month for contacting voters indiscriminately as part of his election campaign and warned all candidates violating the law that they would be fined.
Papadopoulos’ camp had been singled out in particular with Loizidou issuing the party a final warning last month after complaints from the public regarding party phone calls.
Earlier in the month, presidential candidate Giorgos Lillikas’ campaign centre was fined with €500 for making unsolicited phone calls and sending an SMS with political content.
Loizidou said that her office keeps receiving complaints by members of the public and warned that she could raise the fines. Offenders may be slapped with fines of up to €30,000.
According to the law, personal data such as phone numbers are not to be used by anyone for the purpose of promoting, selling or delivering goods or services, unless the person in question gives their consent in writing.
Callers who wish to process personal data for these purposes can only use the name and address of persons provided they were obtained from sources accessible to the public.
For telephone calls to the public, the commissioner said, election campaigners must be able to provide all documents proving that they had obtained the written permission of persons before calling them.
As for text messages, emails or fax, or automated phone calls with recorded messages, election campaigners may use data of users who have given their prior consent. Political parties may send messages to their registered members on behalf of candidates, but they cannot provide the personal details of their members to the candidates.