ICO blog: Pilot project extended to help identify blacklisted workers

Throughout my previous blogs on the construction blacklist, I’ve always made it clear that our focus remains on helping those people who were listed by the Consulting Association.

That has taken a step forward this month, as we’ve assessed the results of our pilot exercise to proactively contact people, and taken the decision to extend it further.

You’ll recall the pilot saw us identify details of 200 people on the blacklist where a full name, date of birth and address were all listed. We shared these details with a commercial service – Equifax – to identify whether the addresses seemed likely to be up-to-date.

Of the details we sent across, 57 addresses did not match any addresses held on the Equifax system. Of the remaining 143 entries, there was a strong indication that 18 individuals were likely still to be at the same address.

We wrote out to those 18 individuals in mid-March. Since then, 12 contacted the ICO about the letter, of which seven have now made a written request for a copy of their file. Anecdotally, we can say that the individuals who contacted us have generally been aware of this issue but had previously not been in touch.

The very low number of addresses confirmed as likely to be up-to-date confirmed our suspicion that much of the detail in the files is out of date or incomplete – little surprise, given some of it is more than 20 years old.

Nonetheless, the responses from the 18 people we did write to were positive. With that in mind, we’re now committed to extending the pilot and using it to contact as many people as we can.

Pilot project extended to help identify blacklisted workers

That statement must come with a note of caution, though, as it’s important to understand how many records this is likely to cover. Our initial estimates suggest that there are around 1,350 entries on the blacklist with sufficient information for us to look into confirming that the details are still up-to-date. If the percentage of people still reasonably likely to be at the same address is similar to our initial pilot, we’d expect to then be writing out to around 90 people.

Some critics would like us to write to a greater number, no doubt, but it would be irresponsible and possibly unlawful for us to write to people on such a sensitive matter at addresses that are likely to be out of date. This proactive contact will sit alongside our work with the trade unions to contact their members who may be on the list, and our fast-track service for people who contact us believing they may be listed – a service over 3,500 people have so far used.

We’re also now working with the Department of Work and Pensions, in a bid to see whether we can cross-reference the blacklist files that contain National Insurance numbers with the Government’s database, in order to find up-to-date contact details for people that way. This is an ongoing project, and whilst the results will not be immediate, it is already showing progress.

We believe our approach is working, a sentiment backed by Business Secretary Vince Cable when the Information Commissioner and I met with him earlier this month. The meeting was very constructive, as we discussed not just our work in closing down the blacklist and contacting those people named on it, but also what we would do today, should we find any evidence that blacklisting continues.

You can find out more information on how you can make a request for your data if you believe you may have featured on the list.

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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