The UK's chief data-protection body has confirmed it is making enquiries after Virgin Trains published CCTV footage of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn using one of its services from London to Newcastle.
The Information Commissioner's Office, which is responsible for dealing with data-protection law, told the technology news website Ars Technica UK that it would be looking into Virgin's decision to publicise the footage on the grounds that it could have breached the Data Protection Act (1998).
Virgin published images of the footage on Tuesday in response to the Labour leader's claim that there were no seats left on the service he used to travel from the capital to Newcastle earlier this month. Corbyn was recorded describing the service as "ram-packed" as he sat on the floor of one of the carriages.
The Richard Branson-owned company, however, rejected Corbyn's suggestion, arguing that he actually walked past unreserved seats before recording the footage and then sat down on a seat in coach H once finished.
"We are aware of the publication of CCTV images of Jeremy Corbyn and are making enquiries," the ICO said.
"All organisations have an obligation to comply with the Data Protection Act and must have legitimate grounds for processing the personal data they hold. Where there's a suggestion that this hasn't happened, the ICO has the power to investigate and can take enforcement action if necessary."
Virgin could be in trouble because, as a passenger on one of its trains, Corbyn was technically a data subject. This means he is protected by strict data-protection law. Virgin would need to justify the publication of the footage on the grounds that it was "fair and legitimate," according to Ars Technica UK.
The Data Protection Act (DPA) provides legal protection for any personal data or data that if published could lead to a person's being identified. It requires companies to keep this type of information to itself to protect the rights of the individual. The most serious DPA breaches can be punished with fines of up to £500,000 ($663,000).
prevent, deter and detect crime
apprehend and prosecute offenders, and provide evidence to take civil action in the courts
help provide a safer environment for our staff
protect public safety
help to provide improved customer service, for example by enabling staff to see customers requiring assistance
monitor operational and safety related incidents
assist with the verification of claims
The company's policy, as it appears above, doesn't appear to allow exceptions for expressing political points. Virgin was not immediately available for comment when Business Insider phoned its press office.