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Nearly a third of young people preyed on by "text pest" delivery drivers


August 23, 2023

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Nearly a third of young people preyed on by "text pest" delivery drivers

Surely you should be able to order pizza without being pestered for sex or a date?

So, how come so many young people are claiming that they are being hassled after ordering an online delivery?

The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's data watchdog, is calling for victims of "text pests" to contact them with their experiences, after almost a third of young people reported being harassed after giving a business their personal information.

The ICO commissioned research to discover how often people found themselves romantically or sexually propositioned after giving personal details such as their phone number or email address to a business.

The survey of 2,289 UK adults discovered that 30% of people aged 18-24 have received sexual or romantic propositions after, for example, ordering a takeaway pizza delivery.

In London the problem was even more prevalent, with 33% of residents reporting that they had been contacted illegally.

"There may be, amongst some, an outdated notion that to use someone’s personal details given to you in a business context to ask them out is romantic or charming. Put quite simply, it is not – it is against the law," said Emily Keaney, the ICO's Deputy Commissioner of Regulatory Policy. "If you are running a customer facing business, you have a responsibility to protect the data of your customers, including from your employees misusing it. We are writing to major businesses, including food and parcel delivery, to remind them that there are no excuses, and there can be no looking the other way."

There are plenty of accounts of people receiving unsolicited advances after receiving deliveries - which must be all the more frightening as the sender knows the victim's home address.

One woman from Cardiff told The Sun earlier this year how an online pizza order was followed-up with a personal text message saying "Just cooking your pizza, look forward to seeing you."

The woman ignored the message, only to be asked why she hadn't replied when the pizza was delivered. The delivery person subsequently "bombarded" the woman with messages, and even tracked her down on Facebook and sent an x-rated photograph.

Another woman described how, after having a treadmill delivered, she received a message asking if she was single.  When she replied asking who was messaging her, she was creepily told "I was in your home earlier."

Perhaps predictably, men are more likely to incorrectly believe such behaviour is legal  (12%) than women (5%).  Young people are significantly more likely to believe it to be legal, with 14% of 18-34s believing it to be legal compared to just 2% of over 55s.

Just because you have access to someone's personal contact details does not mean you have any right to use them. In these cases the details have been shared in a business context, and it is a breach of data regulations to use them in any other way.

Aside from contacting delivery firms to remind them of their responsibilities, the ICO is also collecting evidence of unwanted employee contact and the experience of customers.




Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s.

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