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Construction companies breaching the Data Protection Act?

The Information Commissioner’s Office has uncovered a database containing details on over 3,000 construction workers which was used by over 40 construction companies to vet individuals for employment. The information included sensitive personal information (e.g. construction workers’ personal relationships, trade union activity), as well as people’s employment history. It would appear that some companies made thousands of requests a year. The database was run by Ian Kerr, of the Consulting Association.
Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith, said: “This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.” How can the construction companies not be aware of this offence? Surely they were complaining about data protection when the legislation was in the pipeline, and set to end the discriminatory practices many of them had been using for years.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is considering what regulatory action to take against construction firms who have been using the database.
A quick look through the list (available at www.ico.gov.uk) shows a number of companies associated with wealthy individuals and their grant-making trusts. Some fundraisers might need to take a closer look at the list, and their (potential) supporters, and while I doubt we are quite so cavalier in our attitude to the Data Protection Act, I reckon we should all keep a look out for relevant training courses and resources. Why not get an Institute of Fundraising Special Interest Group or regional/local group, or similar organisation to help out?
All the best

Finbar Cullen


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