British Councils Sell Voter Information CheapPersonal information from the edited electoral register is sold on to corporations by local councils for just £4.50 a pop. Within the last 5 years, more than 300 councils sold data from the register for marketing reasons. Despite the fact that the register is smaller than the full register, and is opt out, taking part in a representative democracy for many could also mean handing over personal data to private companies by proxy.
Indeed, it turned out that the personal details are up for grabs for anyone. The cheapest instance was Ryedale Council which sold details for £4.50, while others sold data for £25. Anyway, it’s not much of a difference for someone concerned with privacy whether the data was sold for a penny or a million.
A freedom of information request revealed details were purchased almost 3,000 times over the last 5 years from 307 councils. According to the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, the councils earned more than £265,000 on that. Their clients ranged from churches to PR companies to pizza shops to colleges. Even such entities as insurance companies, estate agents, financial services, driving schools, and dentists were buying details.
Introduced a decade ago, Labor considered banning the sale of such information, but for some reason changed its mind and took no action. So, the Coalition government has now committed to keeping it in place. Meanwhile, the privacy campaign group claimed that the sale of personal data by public authorities, especially for marketing purposes, is not right. The entity called for the edited register to be abolished, because its very existence impacts on election participation, because voters are concerned about their personal details being shared for marketing purposes and undermining trust in the electoral registration system.
The privacy campaign group has penned a letter that concerned voters can use to permanently opt-out of the edited electoral roll. According to a representative from the Electoral Commission, the latter doesn’t support the commercial sale of any information provided for the purposes of electoral registration. It is clear that this situation will act as a deterrent to some people registering to vote.