Looking for a Job goes Orwellian
The Department for Work and Pensions are introducing changes to job seeking called ‘Universal Jobmatch’ and ‘Universal Credit’. Consent.me.uk explains the massive privacy impact of these new measures.
By late Autumn the Government's Department of Work and Pensions plans to introduce a new Universal Jobmatch website for anyone seeking a job. The US company commissioned to deliver this service is Monster Worldwide, an online recruitment and technology service company infamous for numerous major personal data losses through hacking, including the US equivalent of Universal Jobmatch, usajobs.gov.
Millions of part-time workers and unemployed receiving welfare benefits will be mandated to register, thereby bypassing all semblance of consent[i], letting Jobcentre staff and external contractors have full access to all of their user activities, including reading correspondence with employers, viewing full content of CV's, pending and submitted job applications, jobsearches done and saved, feedback from employers, interviews offered and personal profiles. Jobcentre staff will also be able to attach job vacancy details to a user’s account, which they must apply for.
All of this is being driven by the plan to make all welfare benefit and related services digital by default and mandated for under the Welfare Reform Act (2012), coupled with the introduction of Universal Credit. These welfare reforms come with unprecedented coercive powers, such as “claimant commitments”, including the core mandatory requirement to give evidence of spending a whopping 35 hours per week[ii] doing Jobsearch activities, with non-compliance leading to loss of welfare payments through sanctions of up to 3 years[iii] and or the imposition of mandatory unpaid work(fare)[iv], for showing a lack of effort. Based on the evidence we believe that the unemployed and part time workers[v] receiving welfare benefits will be mandated to register.
This snoopers’ charter of a service will be integrated with many central, local government and private sector databases, covering wages paid, hours worked, credit ratings, electoral role and tax liability to name a few.
What about privacy and consent?
Under current Jobcentre rules and practice for welfare benefit recipients, specifically for Jobseekers Allowance, they are only required to show (not be collected) a record of jobseeking activities, which can just be a short diary account of jobs applied for and jobseeking activities undertaken to find employment.
Currently the collection and retention of actual correspondence with employers, job applications, emails, personal email addresses and telephone numbers requires informed consent and as such can be declined without consequence. However there is evidence that many of the Government's external contractors are subverting informed consent and forcing the sharing of such personal data by unlawful threats of benefit sanctions:
“Claimants [were] bullied into signing an agreement to supply prospective employers’ details, for the provider to claim a job outcome payment.”
Soure: National Audit Office May 2012 report ‘Preventing fraud in contracted employment programmes’
Whilst some may say this level of privacy invasion is proportionate with regards the conditionality of welfare benefits, but this does not address the level of free no cost access to initially anonymised personal data purely on the pre-text of being an employer. Even though candidates can choose if they do want to release their full CV or complete a standard job application form, people claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit will have a mandatory tracked sanctionable obligation to apply for any employer inviting them to apply. The contract documents indicate the only basic verification needed to open an employer’s account will be a landline or mobile phone number and a verified post code.
As no dedicated privacy impact assessment has been undertaken for Universal Jobmatch it is difficult not to conclude it will contravene the Data Protection Act in terms of consent and engage the Human Rights Act (ECHR Article 8) principle that “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.” Nor has anything been published about how the technology will be used, by the Government and external contractors, to view the activities of people not claiming any welfare benefits.
“All access or use of this system constitutes user understanding and acceptance of these terms and constitutes unconditional consent to review, monitoring and action by all authorized government and law enforcement personnel. While using this system your use may be monitored, recorded and subject to audit. ”
consent.me.uk was developed to address reported exploitative bullying practices of external DWP Welfare to Work(fare) Contractors/Providers and inform people of their Data Protection rights of consent and more general welfare rights. The author wished to remain anonymous.
[iii] Higher-level sanctions. Draft The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 : "156 weeks, where there have been two or more previous sanctionable failures by the claimant"
[iv] Mandatory Work Activity aka Workfare, is a month’s full time unpaid work, whilst Jobseekers Allowance is paid.
"It helps them re-engage with the system, refocus their job search and gain work-related disciplines. Failure to complete a Mandatory Work Activity placement without good cause will result in the sanction of Jobseeker's Allowance for three months. This will rise to six months for a second breach. From later in 2012 a three year fixed sanction will apply for a third violation."
Via external DWP contractors working under it's 'Framework for the Provision of Employment Related Support Services'
The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Employment, Skills and Enterprise Scheme) Regulations 2011 give contractors delegated powers to make work search activities mandatory.
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