Trump golf resort in Scotland acknowledges breach of data protection statute

Exclusive: Critics call for full inquiry after resort owned by US presidential candidate fails to register with UK privacy watchdog

Donald Trumps golf resort in Aberdeenshire has admitted it failed to comply with strict data protection laws after not registering with the UKs privacy watchdog, the Guardian can reveal.

The Information Commissioners Office contacted staff at the 30 m resort near Aberdeen, Scotland, after it corroborated it was not registered under the Data Protection Act despite operating an extensive CCTV system and handling data on thousands of golfers and guests, its staff and suppliers.

The resort insisted the failing was a clerical error, but the ICO is now being urged to launch a full investigation by residents, opposition legislators at Holyrood, and the film-maker Anthony Baxter, who directed Youve Been Trumped. They claim Trumps history of conflicts with his foes creates qualms about the resorts failure to comply with the legal requirement to register.

The MSP Liam McArthur, justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrat, told: There is a strong case for the ICO to look into how the Trump organisation stored and used the data that it holds.

This is an organisation which has been accused of bullying local people who disagree with it, and these substantive concerns cannot be brushed under the carpet. The Trump organisation failed to meet its data obligations for years. We need to know how data was collected, stored and used during this period.

The The club house and course of Donald Trumps Menie golf course. Photo: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

The property tycoon, running as the Republican candidate for US president, owns a boutique hotel at the resort, utilizes 95 people and has spent more than 30 m on building and golfing contractors constructing the course, its clubhouse and converting the hotel since he bought it in 2006.

Trump International Golf Course Scotland also says tens of thousands of people have played golf there since 2012, using its restaurant and club home. The company is trying permission to build 850 homes and 1,900 vacation flats on the estate.

The ICO, who are capable of fine companies up to 500,000 for data protection breaches, told the Guardian last week it had no record of the resort being registered as a data holder. The only alternative route was to register through a third party, but it had no information that the company had done so.

Businesses that store or use confidential personal data, including bank records, charge card details and mobile phone numbers must register with the ICO, unless they qualify for an exemption.

The Data Protection Act involves every organisation that processes personal information to register with the ICO, unless it is exempt. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, the commissioners office said last week. Well be writing to the company, asking it to clarify how it is registered.

The ICO said on Thursday morning it had received a valid registration for Trump International Golf Course Scotland and was not minded to investigate further saying this would not be proportionate. Smaller companies have been prosecuted in the past for failing to register under the DPA.

The ICO told: An organisation must still comply with the rest of the Data Protection Act. If people feel an organisation is not handling their info in accordance with the law, they can complain to the ICO, irrespective of whether that organisation is registered.

A A CCTV camera at Donald Trumps golf resort in Scotland points directly down a public access road, leading to the homes of two of his foes. Photo: Severin Carrell for the Guardian

The golf course also risks censure for failing to display prominent signs advising guests, golfers, staff and general public that CCTV cameras were in use a requirement under the ICOs code of conduct. The public expect CCTV to be used responsibly with proper safeguards in place, the ICO said last week.

The Guardian has identified nine visible CCTV cameras at the resort, including 2 recording the vehicles driving through its main entrance, three at the main club house and one record outside the hotel. Of three cameras visible in its maintenance compound, one points directly at the access road to the home of David Milne, one of Trumps fiercest critics, who lives in a former coastguard station overlooking the course, and his neighbour Susie Munro, another foe. As of last week, there was no visible sign advising visitors that CCTV was being used.

Trumps critics fear the resort could use its CCTV systems to track their and guests movements, even though Scotlands robust right to wander statute entitles the public have a legal right to stroll across the resort. Trumps staff vigorously denied using CCTV covertly.

In a statement responding to questions from the Guardian about its use of CCTV cameras and storage of confidential data, Trump International Golf Course Scotland told: We take the security of our employees and guests personal data very seriously and comply with all aspects of the Data Protection Act. A clerical oversight has just been brought to our attention which is now being rectified.

Asked about allegations that CCTV was used to track legitimate activity by the public on or next to the course, the company told: As a public facility open to all, Trump International has CCTV cameras located at its entrance and around the public builds within the estate, for the safety and security of our own member, guests and staff.

The company has no need for cameras outwith those areas and has never had any cause to supply CCTV footage in any criminal proceedings. No other CCTV activity has ever taken place in or around the Trump estate and the allegation of intrusive surveillance of neighbouring properties is unfounded and categorically untrue.

David David Milne lives in an old coast guard station near Trumps Aberdeenshire golf course. Photo: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Milne and Baxter have demanded that the course release any data it holds on them, and protested about the companys failure to register, despite buying the Menie estate 10 years ago and opening the 18 -hole golf course in 2012.

Trumps foes and neighbours claim security personnel or directors are systematically challenged them on the course, seeming close to where they are walking or monitoring them visiting neighbours next to the resort by driving close to its boundary.

Baxter was arrested with a colleague for breach of the peace next to Trumps resort after personnel accused them of filming without permission while they were making a documentary on the tycoons quest to build the resort. Their therapy by the police, including being hurled against a automobile, was featured in the film.

A rambler called Rohan Betys, a retired social worker active in the Tripping Up Trump campaign group, was charged under the Civic Government( Scotland) Act for allegedly urinating in the dunes while she was out strolling on the course with a fellow campaigner, Sue Edwards, in April.

Betys was told by police that she had been filmed by Trump personnel using their mobile phones ducking down behind a dune. As she and Edwards strolled off the course, a photographer believed to work for a local paper jumped out of a automobile and photographed them.

Betys told prosecutors advised her in a statutory warning letter that the unproven charges would be put one across record. She has refused to admit the charges and challenged the decision to issue a warning letter. I find it very uncomfortable, she said last week. We always thought we were being watched. When they were constructing the course, every time we set foot on it[ there were] security guards there instantly.

Milne said the resorts failure to register under the DPA was symptomatic of the[ resorts] entire approach to UK legislation. It had repeatedly built on the course without get scheming permission, only applying after builds, walls or two flagpoles were in place.

An ICO investigation is required because of the track record of the organisation, because of the way it has harassed and attempted to intimidate both those who live on or near the estate and the individuals who stroll on to it, Milne told. The ICO needs to investigate because it has done so elsewhere, when similar things have happened. It should be one statute for all.

Baxter, who was not prosecuted for allegedly threatening Trump staff during his filming a charge he disputed said he had made a subject access petition under the Data Protection Act asking for all the information the company holds on him.

I have on a number of occasions filmed around and near the Trump links property and am concerned that my image may have been captured on numerous occasions and I am concerned also how these images are being stored and used, he told.

Such articles was amended on 11 August to replace a picture showing Trumps other golf course in Scotland.

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