Thursday, July 16, 2009

Enforcement notices served against 17 blacklisting companies

The Information Commisioner today said it will serve enforcement notices against the 17 companies who paid convicted blacklister Ian Kerr for information on construction workers.

Kerr was fined £5,000 today at Knutsford Crown Court, after his company The Consulting Association (TCA) ran a secret database on 3,213 construction workers and traded their personal details for profit. The operation ran from the 1970s until the Information Commissioner's Office seized the information from TCA’s premises on 2 March 2009.

The ICO said it uncovered evidence that named construction firms which subscribed to Kerr’s system for a ВЈ3,000 annual fee. Companies could add information to the system and pay ВЈ2.20 for details held on individuals. Invoices to construction firms for up to ВЈ7,500 were seized during the raid. 


Enforcement notices served against 17 blacklisting companies


The ICO said it has written to these firms with preliminary enforcement notices which outline that they unfairly obtained personal data from Ian Kerr.

Formal enforcement action will follow shortly, subject to any representations made by the companies.

The court also heard today that construction firms paid TCA ВЈ478,937 between April 2006 and February 2009.

David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, said: “Ian Kerr colluded with construction firms for many years flouting the Data Protection Act and ignoring people’s privacy rights. Trading people’s personal details in this way is unlawful and we are determined to stamp out this type of activity.

"Kerr’s covert operation denied people their information rights under the Data Protection Act. We all have important rights under the Act that enable us to check what information is held about us and to make sure it is accurate.”

"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."

Following the ICO’s investigation, Kerr’s system was closed down and TCA ceased trading. The ICO has received over 1,827 enquiries from members of the public and as a result over 120 individuals who appeared on the database have now had their information returned to them.

The ICO said that there are no punishments available for breaches of the data protection principles, which is why it chose only to prosecute Ian Kerr for failing to notify as a data controller.

However, this option is not available to the ICO regarding the 17 construction firms. Penalties are being introduced next April, but are not yet in force. The type of conduct engaged in by Kerr and some construction firms is likely to incur a fine in future.

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