A VODAFONE call centre worker has been suspended following claims he “stalked” a Scots customer on Facebook.
Cheryl Mcgarrigle phoned the mobile network last month to set up a direct debit and was redirected to an Egyptian call centre.
The 23-year-old from Glasgow said she was immediately asked for her shoe size by the “creepy” man who answered the phone.
And after finishing the call, the trainee hairdresser said she was bombarded with “friend” requests on Facebook by the man.
Cheryl said that when she complained to Vodafone they advised her to befriend the worker.
Having done so she says she suffered weeks of online harassment as the man trawled her profile several times a day, tagging pictures and “liking” images of her on holiday in a bikini.
Vodafone have apologised to Cheryl, offered her compensation, and suspended the man involved while they investigate.
Cheryl and her boyfriend, Jonathan, 22, believe they are also victims of a breach of data protection law that could put their financial details at risk.
Cheryl said: “The man asked me the normal security questions and took my other details but then he said ‘What’s your shoe size?’
“I said ‘What’s the got to do with anything?’ He got defensive saying he was just kidding and I ended the call.
“But almost straight away when I was on Facebook I got a friend request from him.”
When Cheryl complained she was put back through to an Egyptian call centre where a supervisor told her to accept the man as a friend “and see what happens”.
She reluctantly went along with the advice and within 30 minutes noticed the man was looking through her personal photographs.
Over a few weeks, Cheryl was notified several times a day that the Egyptian – whose own Facebook pages sports an Al-Qaeda flag – was lurking about her profile, tagging and liking images.
“It was photos of me and my friends on holiday in bikinis or looking all nice for a night out – but he never liked a photo if Jonathan or another guy was in it.
“I feel like I’m being stalked – there must be breaches in data protection because the only way he could find me is by using my email address or other personal details.
“I’m scared at the possibility of him just turning up at my house or trying to phone me or something.”
Iain G Mitchell QC, the chairman of the Scottish Society for Computers and Law, said the case was “plainly” a breach of data protection.
He said: “The real question is knowing how the call centre worker had access to the information in the first place.
“Did the company store it in Britain and he accessed it from Egypt or has the company sent the information to them?
“The answer to this question could also put the company in the firing line, so things need to be clearer so we understand who has access to what and also how they access it.
“Either way this is plainly a breach of data protection – but as it stands there is no way to stop it any more than you can stop people robbing banks.”
Jim Killock, executive director for Open Rights Group, an organisation that campaigns on data protection and privacy issues, said: “Vodafone need to take swift action to ensure their customers’ data is protected.
“This is an extremely obvious abuse of information that should never have happened.”
A spokeswoman for the National Stalking Helpline said: “17% of all of calls and emails have mentioned they have been stalked or harassed via social networking sites.
“If people are experiencing harassment via one of these sites then they should report the behaviour via the site and change their settings.
“They should also take screenshots of the behaviour for any evidential purposes and they can always ring the helpline for further advice on what else they can do.”
A Vodafone spokeswoman said: “We are extremely concerned to hear these allegations and have immediately suspended the individual involved, while we do a thorough investigation of the situation.
“We take the privacy of our customers very seriously and are also anxious to understand why this was not followed up sooner.”
It has not been possible to contact the individual involved for comment.