Housekeeping notes for whistleblowers: Your personal data & the Protect helpline


Summary: If you wish, you are entitled to a copy of the case note which Protect keeps as a record of whistleblower calls to its helpline.


A query arose on social media when an individual who had used the Protect helpline reported that they had unsuccessfully asked for a record of a call to the helpline, which they needed for evidential reasons, to demonstrate their motives at the time of raising concerns.

There was no guidance on data rights on the Protect webpage which gives information for prospective callers to the helpline.

Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 07.27.04

Advice Line – What advice do you need?


An enquiry to Protect’s CEO produced this guidance document, dated October 2019, which is uploaded elsewhere on the Protect website:

Advice Line Privacy Statement October 2019

Importantly, this document states:

“By seeking advice from us you are automatically agreeing to the collection and processing of relevant data including a note of the discussion we have had with you and the advice provided during the course of our engagement with you.”

So make sure you read the Protect data handling policy before you make contact.

The guidance document also states:

“Accordingly, you cannot request that we delete your data from our system as we are justified in holding it under the EU GDPR and required by law. You can however at any point during the course of your contact with our advice line service request a copy of the data we hold in relation to your case.” [my emphasis]

The document also indicates that data may be re-used by Protect:

to conduct research and compile reports in order to understand trends and identify areas in various sectors which require improvement. Please note no sensitive and personal information will be included in reports without your express consent”

I have suggested that Protect makes this policy document more visible to prospective helpline users.

Self explanatory brief correspondence with Protect is provided below.

Dr Minh Alexander

5 November 2019


From: minh alexander <REDACTED>

Subject: Handling of whistleblowers’ data by Protect

Date: 5 November 2019 at 07:11:56 GMT

To: Francsca West <REDACTED>

Morning Francesca,

Many thanks for the prompt response.

That’s helpful clarification.

It might be useful to display the link to your advice line data handling policy on the same webpage that provides information for prospective advice advice line users. I checked there as my first port of call and found no guidance.

The person in question reported that they provided Protect with their unique case reference number, and that Protect staff seemed familiar with their case, suggesting that records existed, but that Protect declined to provide case records:

Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 06.59.59

Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 07.00.32

The individual’s reason for requesting the records was apparently to evidence their motivation at the time of whistleblowing:

Screenshot 2019-11-05 at 07.06.53

Obviously, this may be germane in other cases too.

At a general level, if that is not already done, it might therefore be helpful if Protect staff as a matter of policy provide anybody who requests personal data with a copy of the organisational data handling policy, in order to avoid any misunderstandings and to ensure that whistleblowers are aware of their rights.

You may obviously wish to look into the particular case.

Thanks again.



From: Francesca West <REDACTED>

Subject: Re: Handling of whistleblowers’ data by Protect

Date: 5 November 2019 at 06:47:34 GMT

To: minh alexander <REDACTED>

Hi Minh,

Our policies are all available on our website:

We do not record calls as we would be concerned that it would be off putting to individuals. However we take a note of the conversation and the advice. While obviously I cannot comment on this individual case, we are always happy to provide this note to the caller, with an explanation that if they share the note they will be waiving legal privilege to the note and other communications, but it is their right to waive if they wish.

Thank you for flagging this issue with me as I am concerned that a caller would be under this impression.


Francesca West
Chief Executive

Protect – Speak up, stop harm (formerly Public Concern at Work)


From: minh alexander <REDACTED>
Subject: Handling of whistleblowers’ data by Protect
Date: 4 November 2019 at 09:24:29 GMT
To: Francesca West <REDACTED>

Hi Francesca,

Following this assertion by an individual on social media:

Screenshot 2019-11-04 at 08.57.29

Would it be possible to have a copy of Protect’s policy and procedure covering the handling of all personal data pertaining to whistleblowers who contact Protect for assistance, including retention and destruction schedules, re-use for research (or any other purposes) and the recording of helpline calls?

Many thanks and BW,


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