Three important privacy lessons we can learn from the Barclay brothers’ dispute

19 June 2020

A dispute between the reclusive billionaire Barclay brothers, twins Sir Frederick and Sir David, recently burst into the public domain. To the casual observer, this might appear like no more than a high-profile family feud. But scratch beneath the surface and there are some important underlying issues at play.

On one side of the dispute is Sir Frederick and his daughter Amanda. On the other are Sir David’s three sons, his grandson, and a director of the family holding company, who have now admitted to covertly recording Sir Frederick and Amanda’s business conversations.

To add to the glamour, the recordings took place at the formerly family-owned Ritz Hotel, which was sold earlier this year to a Qatari investor.

Sir Frederick and Amanda allege breach of confidence, misuse of private information and breach of data protection rights, all principally related to the covert recordings. The case remains ongoing. Sir David’s family say that the recordings were made because of serious concerns about Sir Frederick’s conduct and were done to protect the interests of the whole family.

Whatever the eventual outcome of this case, there are clearly some broader lessons to be learnt:

· Protection of confidential and commercially sensitive information is crucial. In this case the situation has been exacerbated by an underlying dispute between the parties as to whether the recent sale of the Ritz was at an undervalue, but every company will have information that would be damaging should it be released to the public, or indeed a section of the public. You should ensure that all steps have been taken to minimise the risk of confidential information dissipating, particularly from rogue or former employees. Detailed background screening and intelligence analysis can help to identify these risks.

· Plan for the worst. Ensure that your staff are trained to know what to do in the event of a theft or leak of confidential information, or a misuse of your private information. If you fear that sensitive material has found its way into the hands of bad actors, there may be pre-emptive legal steps you can take to prevent publication or further unlawful dissemination.

· Review your cyber security measures now. Cyber breaches and threats are on the increase in the Covid era. Carrying out bug sweeps and regularly reviewing your own cyber security measures could identify a threat such as the covert Ritz Hotel recording before it causes you and/or your business damage.

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About the Author

Simon Brown

Associate

With a broad range of experience in reputation management, including defamation, privacy and data protection matters, Simon regularly acts for high-net worth individuals and international organisations.

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