back to article ACS:Law fined for data breach

ACS:Law has been fined by the Information Commissioner's Office for failing to follow data protection law. The one-man law firm, which has since ceased trading, won infamy for using IP numbers to accuse people of illegal file-sharing. Victims received a letter offering to settle the claims rather than go to court. But ACS:Law …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Has this place

    now become the hideout of pikeys, thieves and pirates? Even the editoral seems to encourage piracy these days....

    It seems certain editors like to cherry-pick news.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. Fisher39
      Thumb Down

      Did you read ...

      the same article as me. Apart from the description of Mr Crossley as arrogant it seems to be wholly objective and a report of the facts. Though, given the quote from Mr Crossley, you'd have to work quite hard to disagree.

      I can't see where the article encouraged piracy. Care to enlighten? Or are you just having a bad day?

      1. Zippy the Pinhead

        @ fisher39

        Maybe its all the Down votes he knew he would be getting! lol

    3. irish donkey
      Thumb Up

      Do you work for Sony perhaps

      feeling a little persecuted?

    4. JamesA
      Thumb Down

      Pirates 'R' Us

      The piracy has nothing to do with this case. ACS:Law broke the law and it matters not who they were targeting. They allowed the exposure of 100s of people who may or may not have been doing something illegal, but the point is none of them had been convicted of any offence and they had the right to expect the information concerning them to be kept securely.

    5. Dan Beshear

      It is the Editor's

      JOB to cherry pick the news, Coward. Not all news is the same. Unfiltered news is a lot of work for those who have better things to do. I don't have time to sort out corporate dung press releases (which pass for 'news' in the old media) from actual investigation and reporting. That why the Editor gets to be the Editor, and this is why most of us read El Reg.

      Hideout of thieves and pirates? Not hardly. Gathering place for people who like to read about arrogant dipshits getting just what they deserve? Since 1998.

    6. Iain Purdie

      Check your facts

      Read the back story. A huge portion of the people ACS:Law were targeting were *not* pirates and had not downloaded the pr0n file of which they were accused. The company had used IP addresses to pinpoint downloaders which were unreliable and non-specific.

      Veiled threats of legal action - none of which was likely to happen - were used to scare innocent people into paying up.

      In addition, the credit card details of those who had coughed up were stored insecurely on the company network, and these details (along with a lot of correspondence between and outside of ACS:Law) was leaked due to this fact.

      ACS:Law were the online equivalent of those dodgy parking companies that hit you with a £60 fine and threaten you with court action even when you're parked legally.

      Next time, please check your facts before jumping to conclusions.

    7. Jess--

      a title is required (apparently)

      Pikey... nope

      Thief... nope

      Pirate... on occasion

      if I'm honest around 2% of my music collection is pirate, however that 2% represents tracks that you cannot purchase by any legal means (usually bootleg dance remixes of well known tracks).

      on the subject of ACS Law they were well known for sending letters to people who they accused of downloading various content threatening them with court action unless a payment was made to acs law, even though ACS Law did not have enough evidence to prove that the people they were targeting were the ones that had downloaded the content.

      a similar analogy would be for a legal company to send you a letter claiming that "your car was spotted doing 102mph on the M1 at some point in the last 12 months, Pay us £1000 or we will take you to court and you will lose your license"

      when in reality their evidence is that a silver mondeo with a registration plate containing the number 51 was flashed by a speed camera and they have sent the same letter to every owner of a silver mondeo with a 51 plate.

      ACS Law also folded up very quickly after their data loss (data which we now know was not being held securely in any acceptable way), One could almost imagine that the company was dissolved in order to avoid a big fine (£200,000 down to £1000 is quite a nice reduction)

    8. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clueless AC

      Arrr. That is all.

    9. John G Imrie

      Hello Mr Crossley

      Welcome to El reg.

      1. Zippy the Pinhead
        Thumb Up

        My Thoughts

        My thoughts exactly!

    10. Anonymous Coward

      re: Has this place

      Well, it's a broader church now than it seemed a year or two ago. Andrew Orlowski has been running quite a few good articles sticking it to the freetards, thank god. But you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a pro-pirate publication, given the editorial enthusiasms which one can sense. And, yes, this article (re ACS:Law) is in a sense a pro-pirate piece, because it is all about a single bad policeman, as it were, and ignores the vast collective harm done to artists (those who can still afford to call themselves that) by intellectual property theft.

      Yes, Crossley seems very much a rogue, and it is pleasant to read about him getting his comeuppance, but we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture.

      Incidentally there is a *wonderful* article on the subject in the New York Times here:

    11. Anonymous Coward

      Successful Troll

      is successful.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        re: Has this place

        "Andrew Orlowski has been running quite a few good articles sticking it to the freetards, thank god."

        Orlowski is apparently in favour of a robust copyright regime. That is a separate matter to whether such a regime is fair or not. Not that people who grin vacantly and use the term "freetard" would be able to comprehend this.

        "Yes, Crossley seems very much a rogue, and it is pleasant to read about him getting his comeuppance, but we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture."

        So the average organised criminal asking for protection money is just a lovable old rogue, too? I guess you fit into the Britard template quite nicely: as long as such "colourful characters" give you something to read in the tabloids, who cares if they're actually vicious, threatening bastards?

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture."

        How big do you want the picture to get? The biggest picture of all is that on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

        Your post sounds like one of those Creationist rants, "teach the controversy".

        The controversy is between established fact and people who are just bitter for one reason or another that the world changes without them.

        Just because you spent all of your life savings on music, doesn't mean I have to, grandpa.

    12. Steven Roper

      Re: Has this place

      Computed probablility of OP being:

      JimC: 48%

      Doug Glass: 37%

      PirateSlayer: 14%

      Other: 1%

  2. IglooDude


    As he apparently did not concern himself with whether the people he was sending notices to had "limited means", I see no reason to not hit him with the full £200,000 fine.

    1. irish donkey

      Didn't he say something like.....

      squeeze them like pigs and get all you can from them.

      Disappointing result. Demanding money with menance is a criminal offence.

      1. Puck

        re: Didn't he say something like.....

        "Demanding money with menace is a criminal offence".

        Well actually that's a very interesting point. Whilst I don't personally think this comes under that particular criminal provision, some of ACS:Law's tactics *would* seem to come under the recent Protection from Harassment Act, which makes criminal a course of action intended to create fear or distress. British Gas were found guilty of this during a wonderful ruling not long ago. It's a developing area of law for sure.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up


      That is all.....

  3. Neil Greatorex
    Thumb Up

    What comes around..

    goes around.

    Wonder if his dole being 10 minutes late or the queues at the soup kitchen are quite as annoying?

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    I think the words "f***king chancer"

    about covers him.

    As for that "I;m skint" routine I'd rather strongly doubt it.

    I suspect a good forensic accountant would discover some very interesting transactions on his finances.

    1. There's a bee in my bot net

      Skint Lawyer

      Isn't that an oxymoron?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "but since it's gone titsup it will instead fine Andrew Crossley as an individual"

    If it happens I'll be amazed - this is one of the reasons for establishing Limited Liability Companies - i.e. limiting ones personal liability.

    That said, it couldn't happen to a nicer person.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sole trader

      As he was a sole trader he can be help liable for any debts his company cannot cover.

      But considering the highly dubious nature of his business it is quite astonishing that a layer of all people wouldn't have covered himself with limited liability.

      His incompetence seems to have no end.

      As for him getting a piddling £1,000 fine because he’s skint, he didn't seem to worry about other peoples finances when he was boasting about buying a Ferrari.

    2. jabuzz

      Legal firms are partnerships

      Legal firms cannot be limited companies they are all partnerships. The Law Society requires that partners in law firms are personally responsible for all liabilities. That is unless they have changed the rules recently.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Limited Liability doesn't work like that

      Without boring you with the finer details directors of Ltd companies can be found liable and accountable for actions taken by that company, despite the limited liability part. Which is why, I suppose, it is limited liability and not zero liability.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ACS Law

        ACS LAW LTD




        M30 9AN

        Company No. 05332373

        Company Type: Private Limited Company

        Nature of Business (SIC(03)):

        7411 - Legal activities

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Law Firms

        Law firms tend to be LLP rather than LTD - Limited Liability Partnerships

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Limited - from Business Link

        Private limited companies:

        Limited companies exist in their own right. This means the company's finances are separate from the personal finances of their owners.

        A company may be limited by shares or limited by guarantee:

        a company is limited by shares if members' liability is limited to the amount, if any, unpaid on the shares held by them

        a company is limited by guarantee if members' liability is limited to an amount the members agree to contribute to the company in the event of its being wound up

        For a company limited by shares, shareholders are not responsible for the company's debts unless they have given guarantees - eg a bank loan.

        However, they may lose the money they have invested in the company if it fails.

        Shareholders may be individuals or other companies. However, shares cannot be offered to the general public.

    4. JohnG

      Limited Liability

      For both limited companies and LLPs, liability is NOT limited for directors/partners if they can be shown to have been negligent or criminal. HMRC has successfully extracted money from former directors of bankrupt limited companies on this basis.

  6. nichomach

    Wait a mo...

    "A spokeswoman for the ICO said Crossley had provided the court with a written, legal statement showing he was skint."

    Presumably on the same notepaper that he used to provide "written, legal statements" trying to extort money from innocent people? And for this he gets 99.5% of the fine that he should have faced written off? Sheesh...

    Oh, @AC "Has this place..." - no, you're mistaking El Reg for the offices of the late ACS Law...

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Couldn't happen to a..

    ..nastier bunch of shitbags.

    1. Jedit

      Well, actually it could...

      ... but only because Crossley is a lone shitbag.

      Permission is granted to go Tonto on him anyway, though.

  9. PershingDriver

    A lawyer skint.....

    in other unlikely news Democrats lower taxes, and politicians found to be honest and sincere.

    1. John G Imrie

      In other unlikely news

      Pop has Protestant leanings and bears seen heading out if woods after eating.

  10. Gordan


    ... when is the Information Commissioner going to fine Sony over their similar fail? Will it be in proportion to the number of people who they have exposed to identity theft, relative to ACS:Law?

  11. nsld

    Hows the coffee queue now?

    Shame the ICO is still spineless though, fine him the full £200,000, take his house and cars as a message to other would be chancers.

    1. Crofty616

      Totally Agree

      £1000, what a joke. It really makes me sick.

  12. MinionZero

    Ah the irony :)

    I didn't realise until now, ACS:Law was a one man show. I must have missed that bit of news. :)

    Still it helps explain why ACS:Law as a company appeared so single mindedly arrogant.

    ACS:Law always gave me the impression it was setup as an extortion racket.

    So Crossley tried to intimidate money out of people only to end up having to pay up himself. Ah what irony. :)


    But what about British Telecom?

    They committed *exactly the same offence*... they sent acutely sensitive personal information as an unencrypted email attachment in defiance of an explicit court order.

    "Sensitive personal details relating to thousands of people were made available for download to a worldwide audience and will have caused them embarrassment and considerable distress. The security measures ... in place were barely fit for purpose in a person's home environment, let alone a business handling such sensitive details"

    That statement is also true of British Telecom. BT they had the skill, the technology, and the resources to comply with the court order and they too showed complete contempt.

    And yet, the ICO have done nothing to penalise them, yet BT are perfectly capable of paying a £200,000 fine.

  14. Steve Evans

    Skint lawyer?

    Don't worry, the bailiffs will happily take your TV, Car and house.

  15. lawndart

    The Biter Bit

    Fair's fair. Just set the fine at the national debt.

    It's a pity we have done away with debtors' prisons. I would love to see film of him winding the screw machine all day. I would probably download a copy via peer-to-peer.

  16. adam.c

    Looking at some of the numbers quoted in this interview...

    I'm highly skeptical that he could have burnt through all the cash and assets mentioned.

    £1000 is a joke given how directly and personably responsible he seems to be have been found for the inadequate security provisions.

    I'd like to know how this "self certify my abiilty to pay" works as I'd love to use it on my next tax bill.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Adam.c and others

    Reference burning through cash and assets.

    It is quite easy, really - put them in someone else's name such as a spouse or child. You can then honestly say you own nothing even if you live in your wife's mansion, driving your wife's Ferrari and buying Armani Suits in you r size and cut but for your wife, with money your wife gives you to go shopping for man's suits in your size for her.........

    1. Steve Evans


      Okay, who's up for seducing his wife and causing a divorce?

      No, I don't know what she looks like!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


      As someone else mentioned, a good forensic analysis of his accounts should prove interesting. You can only "gift" so much wealth per year per person without incurring a tax penelty. £4500 IIRC

      Trying to hide transfers like that by "employing" his wife/partner/family member as a secretary on £100,000pa probably won't wash, especially if his own take home "pay" is less.

  18. MJI Silver badge

    At last

    But make it the full £200,000

    We want him bankrupt!

    1. Toothpick

      I have ....

      ... a strong suspicion that it will take more than 200k to make this clown bankrupt. What's to stop him setting up shop again under a different name?

  19. Adze
    Thumb Up

    Today just gets better and better... far I've been told Max Mosley has lost at the European Court of Human Rights and now I discover Andrew Crossley is now of 'limited means'. Fablas! :D

  20. Ally J

    Oh, come on

    In the e-mails there was a classic to Westminster council where he claimed the firm couldn't afford to pay a littering fine, and yet he was bragging splashing out on a car.

    Thus, we know he's got form for fibbing. Another statement claiming he's got no money should be viewed in the same light. He's not unskilled, he's not without contacts: give him 'time to pay' and go for the whole £200,000.

  21. Swiss

    Just seen this article...

    Great end to the day, I also hope his testicles turn square and develop some form of nasty itchy scratchy mould.

    The comparison of him to those shady car park sharks is also very apt, top tip, if you get one of those fines, just refuse to pay, even when they threaten with debt collectors, refuse to pay and insist on your day in court, they will drop it before it gets to court because they know they can't enforce the penalty. Successfully done this against UKPC.

    Have a great Tuesday evening all!

    1. irish donkey
      Thumb Up

      Succesfully done against L.P.S

      Don't pay Private Parking Tickets they are worthless. Ignore everything they send you and say

      Further advice on Private parking tickets can be found on Consumer Action Group (CAG) or Martin Lewis

  22. Zippy the Pinhead

    I was under the impression

    I was under the impression that it was doubtful that Mr Crossley/ACS Law even had the legal right to collect. In the US I believe that's called extortion, why hasn't he been charged?

  23. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    a grand? Really?

    That would be worth just 2 of his infamous letters. What a joke. I am not intimate with UK law, but does it open the way for personal action from the victims, or does it settle the matter once and for all? In the latter case Crossley just got handed a huge reward, not a fine.

  24. Alan Gregory 1

    Crossley what a twonk

    You can debate the rights and wrongs of what Crossley was up to but one thing is inexcusable.

    When the personal details of over 20,000 individuals were leaked due to the rank incompetance of Crossle - some of whom were no doubt innocent, but the data doesn't make that distinction - he could have and indeed should have, according to the code of conduct for solicitors and the ICO, contacted those who were affected.

    The fact he didn't should have resulted in a larger fine and if this is the way the ICO deals with the single largest data leak before Sony decided to join the fray then they are not fit for purpose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crossley what a twonk

      "When the personal details of over 20,000 individuals were leaked due to the rank incompetance of Crossle[y] - some of whom were no doubt innocent..."

      I wonder if there's a case for suing the extortionist concerned for defamation.

  25. kain preacher


    Thats some twisted logic there . How can you say that this was pro pirate article . There is no proof that ACS was even targeting pirates but just people who might of had an IP address. More like a crooked cop shaking people down . But lets go with the bad cop analogy. Are saying that people can't be happy that a crooked cop is off the streets with out supporting crime ? All I'm asking is to show me one case were ACS even took a person to court, oh wait the didn't. People are even questioning if they had standing to sue, and by people I mean judges and other lawyers .

    So please tell me how people cheering that shake down artist is gone is supporting piracy ?.

  26. Heff

    Pure Bullshit

    Limited means to pay? I call shenanigans. He's milked his scared and confused clientele via straight-up blackmail* and now he's shuffled his ill gotten gains off into a bank account somewhere, wound the company up, and will cry and whine about limited means until his creditors piss off and then he's off to barbados living the life of riley.

    To everyone elsre complaining about a pro-piracy bias on the reg : there isnt one. there's a pro do-business-ethically bias, which involves not supporting making an example of a single mother with a copy of limewire to the tune of 200 grand, or looking and supporting other practical solutions to piracy and revenue models which are lawyer-and-lollitigation independant, because the current model, as it stands, supports lawyers, increases the cost of legit music without increasing dividends to artists, and paves the way for massive bureaucratic bloat and political corruption as MPAA Lobbying runs amok.

    I dont support piracy. I also dont support extortion and terrorism, which is basically what ACS was up to. Guess which one I get more pissed about?

    *(courts dont think these cases can be prosecuted, CPS wont bring charges but he writes the letters anyway? thats blackmail. fuck the Artists/Piracy war, this is an article about someone exploiting the artist/Piracy situation to blackmail people)

  27. David 45

    No funds?

    Crossley skint? Hmm. Don't believe a word of it. Reckon there should be further investigation of his statement. Sounds suspicious to me. He shouldn't be let off the hook THAT easily.

  28. SirTainleyBarking
    Thumb Up

    That Karma

    She's a Birch* isn't she

    *Damn that spelchekker

  29. Alan Brown Silver badge

    only 1k?

    I hope a few people stake out his house/premises, etc and take some photos to see if he really IS "of limited means"

    The resulting publicity would be popcorn-worthy.

    Ideally he should be ordered to pay back everyone who actually coughed up too.

  30. heyrick Silver badge

    A thousand f**king pounds?

    Bloody hell, your average copyright infringement slams for a fair bit more than that, and I don't hear them being considerate for a person's "limited means".

  31. FozzyBear
    Thumb Down

    That's bullshit

    The fine or punishment should always fit the crime not the ability or inability of the individual to be able to pay it. Besides to actual take this pricks word based on a written statement rather than investigating his financial status themselves is just sheer laziness on the part of the commissioner's office

    After ten years as an investigator I can honestly say there is enough information to seriously fuck this guy over for years to come. Firstly there is enough information to start a criminal investigation certainly fraud offences will be aplenty. depending on the british statute demand money with menace.

    Then there the law practice itself a formal hearing with the bar association barring him from practicing law for 10 years should be a minimum.

    Then after the dust has settled the tax office should be extracting it's pound of flesh.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Repeat after me

      This fine is only for the data breach. The ICO can't touch him for his threatening letters. Isn't he still under investigation for that?

      You're not a very good investigator if you can't even understand that!

    2. nichomach

      I disagree with the the first sentence...

      ...but agree with EVERYTHING else here; the point is that one doesn't have to reject the idea of punishment according to the circumstances of the individual to opine that in all probability, Crossley's a lying thieving sack of shit whose convenient inability to pay probably has as little substance as the grounds upon which he attempted to extort money from people. They should pursue him for the full £200,000.

  32. MJI Silver badge

    I would have jailed him

    Now that WOULD have been funny

  33. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Up

    Re: That's bullshit and similar comments...

    Total agreement here. The man is a lying scumbag and should be punished to the fullest extent, including jail time for extortion.

  34. Anonymous Coward


    might say that the ICO are toothless and that the fine is tiny and inconsistent to the crime committed

    Others might think that by not wringing the parasite dry there might be some cash in the assets which will be distributed amongst the wasted costs claimants which Judge Birss has opened the way for

  35. Anomalous Cowturd

    Can't believe I missed this great news...

    The fine is a joke, and completely inexcusable.

    DarkNerd above has the idea about right though. Roll on the SRA investigation and lots of private action IN COURT. A place he never seemed keen to go.

    Which is strange for a lawyer...

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