Estate agent apologises after 3D virtual tour exposes personal data

The owner of an estate agency in Dartmoor has apologised after a 3D tour of a property for sale in Devon was published with a significant amount of personal information visible.

Internal images of the house, which has been listed for sale since October 2020, exposed financial paperwork that contained a shares dividend cheque, an insurance policy document and an invoice for a stairlift.

A number of family photos had also been left unblurred, while other identifiable data about the homeowners in the property included the names of their pets on a photograph, clues about their political views based on their choices of reading material, and their health – an asthma inhaler was visible in one of the bedrooms.

Fowlers estate agent said the private data in the virtual tour had “slipped past” its staff and the owner of the property.

The firm’s owner Philip Fowler told the BBC that his firm “takes our clients’ privacy very seriously”, which is why the 3D tour has now been withdrawn.

“We will be more diligent in the future,” Fowler said.

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12 Comments

  1. AlwaysAnAgent

    Someone clearly fowled up and I’m sure they will have been taken to task over it.

    It can’t be uncommon for nuggets of personal information to slip through the net when taking photos and is it the vendor’s responsibility to remove their items, or is it down to the agent? I guess it’s a chicken and egg situation.

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  2. Anonymous Agent

    It’s definitely down to the vendor to ensure private sensitive documents are not on display.

    Could we be held at fault if they leave something out during a viewing?

    A total non story featured on the BBC News site yesterday that will cause issues for agents across the country when the vendor is the one who should be highlighted as being careless.

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  3. DerekSharpham

    The world has gone mad.

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  4. Steve_Smithson

    Not the first time a 3D Virtual Tour has allowed viewers to zoom in and scrutinise details of a property that should remain private. It is a downside of 360 degree photography that unintended details slip past.

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  5. brian.itours360

    Any reputable service provider of 2D/3D will ensure their customer/client removes any sensitive information from view; should anything slip through then there is the facility to obscure (blur) after the event BEFORE publishing for others to view.  We also recommend access to 3D content is moderated by the agent/owner and logged for sales/audit purposes.

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  6. Richard Copus

    It reminds me of a firm in Camberley in the early 1980s when I started in the industry who pioneered video tours (VHS obviously) and ran them in their window.  It was a gift to burglars and led to a number of break-ins.  The company involved dropped the tours and it took years for anyone to risk doing them again.  It’s almost impossible not to leave some tell-tale signs.  Even if you blur out any written documentation and photos, the aspiring criminal always has a very good idea of the type of home owner from the general decor, ornaments etc on display and the detailed view of the layout shows him how to get around quickly during his visit.

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  7. brian.itours360

    With over 45K virtual tours (360/3D) in circulation in England for residential sales and lettings (that’s about 10.7% of listings) I agree this this is becoming a worrying trend. Agents like to use these to promote their services, drive website/listings traffic, and win business. Consumers like these as they can make some decisions on the property. We do not recommend publishing this level of detail on to the internet for anyone to view; I guess the agents and sellers are less concerned than the buyers/tenants who may end up with a security problem down the road. This information must be moderated so it is known by the agent/owner who can access and who has accessed the information.  Brian.

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    1. Woodentop

      A very worrying trend when burglaries start to rise.
       
      It won’t be long before agents will need some sort of indemnity insurance (if possible?), once homeowners are on the recieving end and their insurers refuse to cover them (will happen).
       
      Technology isn’t necessary always a good thing and for so many reasons agents should reconsider virtual tours are a gimmick in the sales process that has just many, if not more negative reasons to stay away from them.

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  8. Woodentop

    Not only that you have provided all the information criminals need to select a worthwhile property and plan gaining entry from the comfort of their armchair. Beggars belief!

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  9. singing agent

    Video tours and virtual tours should not be available directly off the property portals, this is a recipe for encouraging criminal activity.  Better to provide a link to a ready and able buyer / tenant who requests a viewing – AFTER you have their full details.

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  10. brian.itours360

    ABSOLUTELY! – There are only 3,000 moderated links out of 47,000 (360/3D) virtual tours so we have some way to go……

    We also recommend virtual tours (360/3D) solutions have the ability to have the access withdrawn at source to further secure a clients/new owners/tenants’ confidentiality and security. As the owner (for property sales) is changing there is a duty of care by the seller (agent) for the buyer’s new property. Technology is a busines enabler, the business has the accountability to ensure if it introduces technology this is done safely and securely for clients, customers, and consumers. To achieve this, ensure a professional technology partner is engaged who will ensure their services and solutions are up to scratch; this will not be the cheapest in ££ but it will bring the most value to your business and keep your customers safe and secure. We owe them that at least and if they are paying for services (directly or indirectly) then they deserve it too! 

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    1. Woodentop

      ….. there is a duty of care by the seller (agent) ……

       

      No kidding!

       

      …… the business has the accountability to ensure if it introduces technology this is done safely and securely for clients, customers, and consumers ……

       

      BUT IT ISN’T, it is used open to the public.

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