Friday, 13th March 2009
Tim Buckley Owen
Due diligence research is one area of growing opportunity for beleaguered information professionals. And, with the capability for investigating individuals growing all the time (try Penny Crossland’s review of Know Your Customer products at http://www.vivavip.com/go/e16222 for instance) interest in people research is growing exponentially.
But you can fall foul of the law if you’re not careful, as did a Droitwich-based outfit called – innocuously enough – the Consulting Association. A raid on its premises recently by the Information Commissioner’s Office (http://digbig.com/4ykmd) revealed a database containing details of 3,213 construction workers, designed for use in vetting potential employees.
It included such sensitive information as personal relationships and trade union activity, and the firm’s 40-plus client list read like a roll-call of the UK construction industry. Several prominent clients have since denied any wrongdoing (http://digbig.com/4ykme) but the Information Commissioner is clear that the operation was illegal on many grounds.
The database was not registered for data protection, information was held without the individuals’ knowledge or consent and, indeed, its very existence was repeatedly denied, the ICO said. It intends to prosecute the firm’s owner Ian Kerr and consider what regulatory action it can take against construction firms that have been using the system.
This may have been an extreme case – but when researching people, there’s often a fine line to be drawn between what’s legal and what’s not. Check the Information Commissioner’s guidelines at http://digbig.com/4ykmc if you’re in any doubt.
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