ICO blog: More work to help those affected by construction blacklist

It’s almost two months since I last wrote about the ICO’s work around the Consulting Association’s construction industry blacklist. Now is an opportune time to update you on how we are working to help those on the list.

You may recall that the ICO closed the list down in 2008 and successfully prosecuted the man who ran the database. We immediately set up a fast-track service to help anyone who suspected they were on the list to receive a copy of the information held about them and we’ve continued to operate this service ever since.

Recent media coverage of the blacklist means we’ve had another spike in calls, and 2,430 people have now asked us whether they are on the list.

That number will keep rising as we continue to help people concerned that they have been affected by the database. If you think you might have been listed, you can find out how to check whether that’s the case and, if so, how to make a request for your data.

We’re pleased with the help we’ve given people so far, but when the GMB union contacted us with concerns that some of their members were still unaware they had been listed, we were happy to work with them to do more.

I explained in my last post that we were looking to give the union’s lawyers access to some of the information on the blacklist. The union plans to write to any members they identify on the list, inviting them to put in a subject access request for the full information held about them.

That has now moved forward: the legal paperwork was signed this week, and we expect GMB will begin looking at the information we’ve provided in the next few days.

We’ve had a request from a second union, Ucatt, to work with us in the same way, and are working to make that happen too.

ICO blog: More work to help those affected by construction blacklist

We’re also trying to do more to contact others on the list proactively. As I explained last time, this is impossible in many cases, with a lot of the entries in the database incomplete, inaccurate or extremely dated. In some cases it isn’t though, and we’re exploring how we could contact those people.

That too will present significant challenges, as we need to have a good degree of confidence in individuals’ addresses before writing to them (any letter sent to the wrong address, hinting at someone’s inclusion on a blacklist, could see us in breach of the very Data Protection Act we regulate), but we’re committed to examining ways to overcome this hurdle.

As ever, our aim will be to continue to offer the public a service we can be proud of, something which I believe we’ve achieved so far.

On that note, it’s worth addressing a recent press article suggesting that the blacklist was bigger than has been previously suggested, and that the ICO had somehow ‘missed’ some of it.

That is far from accurate. We carried out a detailed investigation, ran by an experienced team with significant expertise in the Data Protection Act. The investigation included a search of the Consulting Association’s offices, which secured the evidence used to shut the blacklist down and to prosecute the man running it.

The investigation found no evidence whatsoever that any blacklists existed in other industries, or that the number of construction workers blacklisted went beyond the 3,213 workers whose details we secured.

It’s those 3,213 workers we continue to work to help. The construction blacklist was a black spot on the history of industrial relations in this country, but closing it down is something the ICO can be rightly proud of.

David SmithAs well as providing Data Protection leadership across the ICO, David Smith has direct responsibility for oversight of its Strategic Liaison Division which develops and manages the ICO’s relations with its key stakeholders.
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