ICO Seizes Covert Database Of Construction Industry Workers

An investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has uncovered a database containing details on 3,213 construction workers which was used by over 40 construction companies to vet individuals for employment.

The information includes sensitive personal information such as construction workers' personal relationships, trade union activity, as well as people's employment history.

The information has been seized by the ICO during a raid in Droitwich, West Midlands. Ian Kerr, the owner of a firm known as the Consulting Association, appears to have run the database for over fifteen years. The ICO has uncovered evidence at Kerr's premises that named construction firms subscribed to Kerr's system for a £3,000 annual fee. Companies could add information to the system and pay £2.20 for details held on individuals. Invoices to construction firms for up to £7,500 were seized during the raid.

The ICO has served an Enforcement Notice ordering Mr Kerr to stop using the system. Mr Kerr is to cease trading by the end of this week and he now faces prosecution by the ICO for breaching the Data Protection Act.

Deputy Information Commissioner, David Smith, said: "This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent but the very existence of the database was repeatedly denied. The covert system enabled Mr Kerr to unlawfully trade personal information on workers for many years helping the construction industry to vet prospective employees. The Data Protection Act clearly states that organisations must be open about how they process personal information, and in most cases those processing personal information must register with the ICO - Mr Kerr did not comply with the law on either count.

"On raiding Mr Kerr’s business premises we discovered an extensive operation involving household names in the construction industry. Kerr held information on thousands of construction workers and profited by checking names against his database.

"We will prosecute Mr Kerr and we are also considering what regulatory action to take against construction firms who have been using the system. I remind business leaders that they must take their obligations under the Data Protection Act seriously. Trading people's personal details in this way is unlawful and we are determined to stamp out this type of activity."

From 16 March the ICO will operate a dedicated enquiry system for people who believe personal information about them may be held on the database.

Members of the public are advised not to contact the ICO until 16 March.


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