Britain: Trade in personal data jeopardised employment prospects

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served Enforcement Notices on 14 construction firms following breaches of the Data Protection Act. Some organisations paid thousands of pounds to unfairly obtain personal information about construction workers. 

David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, said: “Fourteen firms paid for personal details about construction workers without those people knowing. The individuals were denied the opportunity of explaining or correcting what may have been inaccurate personal information about them and which could have jeopardised their employment prospects in the construction industry. We have used the maximum powers available to us and this enforcement action sends a strong signal that organisations must take the Data Protection Act seriously. Should the firms fail to adhere to the terms of the Notices they could face prosecution.”

The firms are: Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited; Balfour Beatty Construction Northern Limited; Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish & Southern Limited; Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (HY) Limited; Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited; Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Services limited; CB&I UK Limited; Emcor Engineering Services Limited; Emcor Rail Limited; Kier Limited; NG Bailey Limited; Shepherd Engineering Services Limited; SIAS Building Services Limited; Whessoe Oil & Gas Limited.

The enforcement action prevents the companies from using the personal data supplied to them by Ian Kerr, formerly of The Consulting Association (TCA). The firms will also need to ensure that if they obtain personal information about job applicants from third parties in the future they are completely open  with those applicants about the process. It is a breach of the Data Protection Act to use personal data  covertly to vet workers for employment.

 ICO news release [pdf].

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