Agents warned about data breaches in hi-tech house tours

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Estate Agents are facing increased complaints from clients whose sensitive personal data is exposed in ‘virtual’ house tours, according to The Guild of Property Professionals.

During the coronavirus pandemic agents have increasingly turned to hi-tech video tours to market their clients’ homes. The Guild of Property Professionals’ compliance officer, Paul Offley, warns that personal data can be captured on film, exposing agents to the risk of future claims.
Earlier this year the BBC revealed that a virtual house tour in Devon was published on Rightmove with a substantial amount of personal information visible – including financial paperwork. Carole Theriault, co-host of the Smashing Security podcast, said the video was “a treasure trove of private data – a veritable goldmine for identity thieves, phishers, you name it.

In his compliance blog, Paul Offley sets out the steps agents can take to protect themselves:• Check out the room before any photography or filming takes place,
• Check with the seller whether there is anything of a personal or sensitive nature in any room that they do not wish to be included,
• Ask the client to confirm they have checked all photographs and video for personal data, and
• Use software to identify and blur-out personal or sensitive data.

James Burgoyne of Brunel says: “If an estate agent inadvertently publishes sensitive personal data about a client in a virtual tour they could find themselves facing a complaint or even a negligence claim. Agents should be advising clients to put away personal and sensitive items when they are selling their homes, and therefore may be receiving visits from third parties; this should include warnings about personal information as well. Agents should check videos carefully for personal information before publishing them and it would sensible to have their client sign-off content as well. Disclaimers within the Agent’s terms and conditions based on client sign off might also be considered.

Paul Offley’s blog has been published on The Guild of Property Professional’s website, and a report about the issue has been published by The Negotiator. The BBC’s report about a data breach has been published on its website.

Professionalindemnity.com is owned by Brunel Professions, which is a leading professional indemnity insurance broker in the UK. Click here to get a quote or call 0345 450 1074 to speak to a broker.

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