Young people are falling victim to “text pest” delivery drivers who ask for romantic dates and sexual favours after getting their number for work reasons.
The findings come from research commissioned by the UK’s data protection watchdog, which said nearly a third of those aged between 18 and 34 received inappropriate, unwanted contact after handing over their details for services like food and postal deliveries.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said such messaging was illegal and it would contact companies to remind them of their responsibilities and check their safeguarding practices.
Emily Keaney, deputy commissioner of regulator policy, warned firms “there can be no looking the other way”.
“People have the right to order a pizza, give their email for a receipt, or have shopping delivered, without then being asked for sex or a date a little while later,” she said.
“They have a right to know that when they hand over their personal information, that it will not then be used in ways that they would not be comfortable with.”
According to the ICO’s research, 17% of the public have had their personal information given for a business reason used for a romantic or sexual proposition.
This includes 30% of those aged 18 to 24, 29% of those aged 25 to 34, and 25% of those aged 35 to 44.
The most common geographic region is London, where 33% of residents reported this happening to them.
Anyone who has fallen victim to such behaviour is being asked to get in touch with the ICO, as the watchdog fears many would not realise it was illegal.
Of more than 2,200 people surveyed, two-thirds said it was morally wrong to use details given for work purposes to make romantic or sexual propositions.
But only 56% believed it to be illegal, with 24% viewing it as a matter of personal judgement rather than law.
The ICO’s call for evidence is available as an online form and is open until 15 September.