It has emerged that networks competing with T-Mobile were sold personal information relating to thousands of T-Mobile customers in what has been heralded as the largest data violation of this type.
Millions of individual pieces of information were passed to brokers by a former employee of the network provider and details including contract expiration dates were then sold on to rival providers in return for significant remuneration.
Government watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) released news of the breach, explaining that the information was then used by rival networks to aid in their targeting of cold sales calls. Customers who were coming towards the end of their contract were targeted and attempts were made to persuade them to switch away from T-Mobile.
The ICO identified that the problem of the trade in personal data is fuelled by the commission culture that is prevalent across the mobile networks.
With employees earning a premium for signing up customers to long term contracts, the sales and marketing environment is seen to encourage underhand tactics such as the illegal purchasing of personal data from rivals.
T-Mobile was apparently unaware that the story was going to enter the public domain at such an early stage in the proceedings.
It is believed that T-Mobile was expecting coverage closer to the time when a court case could be brought against the guilty parties.
A T-Mobile spokesperson explained that the network had actively sought the help of the ICO after it became aware of evidence suggesting a former staff member had been involved in what is by any measure a serious data breach.
According to official network sources, T-Mobile has instigated further safeguards to ensure that this scandalous occurrence is not repeated.
ICO commissioner Christopher Graham said that he was taking steps towards prosecuting those responsible for the leak, viewing the amount of money involved in the subsequent deals as underlining the seriousness of the crime.
The ICO is hoping that this latest instance of data loss will allow it to change current legislation and to seek custodial sentences as well as fines for future instances.