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back to article UK.gov may abolish edited electoral roll

The Government could abolish the edited electoral roll which organisations can buy from local authorities and use for any purpose. It is consulting on the issue after a review of Government data handling recommended that it be scrapped. The review, carried out last year by then Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and Dr Mark …

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Black Helicopters

lead by example?

The national government should set a good example for local ones by banning the DVLA from data-pimping.

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Translation

It said that while making the edited register 'opt in' rather than 'opt out' would better protect privacy and reduce the number of people who appear on the edited register without knowing that they do or understanding the implications of that, it would also drastically reduce the usefulness of the edited register by reducing the number of people on it.

If we make it opt in instead of opt out there will be fewer people on it and we won't be able to charge as much as we do for it.

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And while they're at it...

Credit where it's due, good idea. While they're at it the DVLA can stop selling my data, too!

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Quite right

I've always thought it was an odd thing for something so necessary to our "democratic" rights that as soon as you sign up your details are sold on.

I've been ticking the box from the moment it appeared.

I understand that gov need to fund these types of things, but aren't we already taxed for those very reasons?

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Anonymous Coward

So wrong

I disagree with many of the statements made that the data should only be used for electoral purposes.

Point 1, people have the right to witheld from the edited form of the electoral roll register.

if they can't work out which box to tick on the form, then should they even be receiving a voting form in the first place?

Point 2: The electoral roll register has been and currently is available in libraries of towns/councils and this has been the case for many, many years.

To prohibit the distribution of the data, and presumably prevent even libraries from holding this information is going to reduce the level of access that has been provided for many years, before IT came into existance. This is wrong.

The level of access that is provided with online databases holding this information is invaluable, it is not necessarily used for criminal means, althought that is possible.

I have used to electoral register online to locate people that owe me money, and then I've taken them to court. I've used it locate old friends, I've used it to track down law breakers too.

I've used it for myself and I've used it to help others too, for quite legitimate reasons.

I see nothing wrong with the situation as it currently stands.

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Voting rights == ability to read

"if they can't work out which box to tick on the form, then should they even be receiving a voting form in the first place?"

My hubs has reading and writing difficulties but can listen to the arguments of the imbeciles in politics and decide who he likes and dislikes. He told me that he would never vote for an utter moron like you. Does that make my point?

Jacqui

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Stop

So Wrong!

Are you the creepy stalker I am trying to get a restraining order against?

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Anonymous Coward

Stalker Stalker

"@I have used to electoral register online to locate people that owe me money, and then I've taken them to court. I've used it locate old friends, I've used it to track down law breakers too."

And I've used it to look up a girl I fancied.... she was living with her husband she failed to mention in the pub.... but that's OK, us stalkers are use to setbacks! I'll just go look in the old version to see where he was living before and if his former GF knows.

1. Don't lend money to people you don't know the address of.

2. You located your old friends without their agreement, whereas Friends United or similar would have allowed *mutually* to contact each other, or just keep in touch like real friends do.

3. Even if your friend thinks it ok for *you* to do it for tat purpose, doesn't mean that (third person) consents to (fourth person) for (other purpose), or that your friend would be happy if tey knew all the uses it is put to.

4. "I've used it to track down law breakers too", oh great, someone with authority disillusion has access to private home addresses.

This is a good privacy move, but its from NuLabour which makes me suspicious because they tell me lies so often.

The data is abused even in the Library.

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Unhappy

money

how much do they make from the edited register then?

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DVLA

The issue with the DVLA is quite different. They sold our data on without our permission and without our knowledge.

Further, the purposes for which the data is used is highly dubious, it's used by companies operating car parks with CCTV and number plate recognition so you can be fined by the company for over staying the 2 hour time limit in a motorway service station.

ie., by the DVLA selling our data on to other companies, virtually no good comes from it with respect to the drivers.

That isn't the case with the electoral roll register data.

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Stop

Fine you? No!

They can not fine you in a privately operated car park, all they can do is invoice the registered keeper, who may not even have been the driver. The registered keeper is not required to tell them who the driver was either, which means these invoices are virtually unenforceable in those circumstances.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Confused

Doesn't the edited register help things such as credit checks? Surely the sensible option would be to limit who can use it rather than to whore it out to anyone with enough fivers in their sweaty palm?

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Impact

"Whilst the Government is sympathetic to the arguments … that data collected for electoral purposes should only be used for electoral purposes, feedback from others suggests that the abolition of the Edited Register may have an impact on the economy and on wider society," it said.

Impact on the economy = some of those companies that phone you at teatime to try to sell you shit you don't want will go out fo business. Members of Parliament and their 'donation' contributing 'friends' who have financial interests in these companies will be out of pocket.

Impact on wider society = everybody with human blood in ther veins is marginally happier.

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No mention of credit checks?

As I understand it, credit reference agencies get access to the *full*, not edited register. I've always felt that this is an abuse of the register. Somehow I expect the agencies will continue to get full access no matter what.

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Unhappy

Credit checks

Not only do credit reference agencies get access to the full register, but the consultation document implies that they then sell it on (while also stating that this would be illegal). I'm currently writing a response which calls for the data they get to be reduced and for the legislation governing their use of it to be tightened.

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Big Brother

@Fredd:"there are 2 options - and a civil servant comes up with 6 choices..."

Which are 5 options to keep it and one to abolish it. Nothing like stacking the odds in their favor!. ;) ... but then if we didn't have so much data collected, we wouldn't need to employ so many civil servants to deal with it all. But then department leaders of civil servants are not going to suggest making themselves redundant to save us all money, so here's 5 ways to keep us and one to reduce the need for civil servants in this data handling area. ;)

With all this selling government data, I'm wondering how long before they try to "Monetize" my soul.

The thing about this news I find most worrying is their attitude of exploiting so much government data for their profit, (data we have to give them). (With computers these days, businesses can now exploit all this government data so much more than they could back in the days of paper only offices. So back then it wasn't a problem. But now they can easily also reprocess all the data and merge it with other sources of data etc.. to give businesses far greater ways to violate peoples privacy for their own gain. This wasn't possible or practical to do back in the days of paper only offices, so it wasn't such a problem. But now data spreads and spreads and merges and accumulates without end). Worst still given the government and councils relentless attitude of exploiting data for profit, then how much more of their ever growing data on ever more databases are they also planning on monetizing?!.

They keep showing they are determined to exploit us all in what feels like almost every possible way to earn money from us, so morally how are they any different from Phorm? They are all trying to ruthlessly exploit us with no empathy at all. So much for privacy.

I guess this is what you get in a relentlessly bureaucratic country that has systematically destroyed and outsourced almost all engineering and manufacturing. Our only real remaining value, is to all the service industries that have sprung up to exploit us for profit. (A bit like a fire sale to get value out of what remains in the UK or maybe a house of cards as each part of the service industry exists to support the service industry).

The more I see, the more I feel the UK is becoming some kind of strange political experimental version of The Truman Show. Everything we do feels like its going to be monetized.

So much for privacy. :(

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Anonymous Coward

You won't catch me, guv

"... there is a belief that the sale of the electoral register deters some people from registering at all"

I doubt that very much. What deters people from registering at all is that it is seen as telling the authorities where you are!

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Anonymous Coward

The DVLA are the real problem

Sod the electoral roll - it's the DVLA's database selling that needs banning.

They hide behind the 'reasonable cause' allowance, yet they say that anyone who is willing to pay £2.50 cannot fail to have reasonable cause anyway!

Incredible.

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Big Brother

Of course

None of this would be necessary if we all had ID Cards.

We could also do away with polling stations and counts, just stick your ID card in a terminal and vote from anywhere in the country (world).

Has Big Brother got his tongue in his cheek?

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Unhappy

It's a bit bloody late

I also agree that DVLA info should not be sold either.

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Coat

I like the comment

"It sends a particularly poor message to the public that personal information collected for something as vital as participation in the democratic process "

WHAT DEMOCRATIC PROCESS.

I find the fact the former ICO (The one that buckled under 'Phorm') to be linked with something for protecting people, to be particularly gauling.

No information collected by civil servants in any quango or govt body should be sold for data pimping purposes, but heck, how else will private money get into public cofferes to pay for new houses, bird baths, moat dredging, rent boys. etc etc etc.

Afterall they stripped the public coffers bare and can't afford basics, so why not data pimp, earn millions for their pockets.

Mines the one with the emigration papers in the pocket.

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Stop

Data collected for electoral purposes...

... should only be used for those purposes.

What a great idea!

Parliament should pass an Act, say one for, oh, I don't know, Protection of Data, that has rules which state that Data must only collected for specific purposes and can only be used *for* those purposes and that the Data should not be disclosed (or sold) to others *without* the consent of the individual.

Maybe they could even have someone called a Commissioner for Information whose job it was to ensure those rules are obeyed and who had the power to do something if they were broken.

I wonder why nobody thought of this before...?

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Stop

Just comply with the law

This ought to be a no-brainer. The second Data Protection principle as set out in the Data Protection Act 1998 [1] says:

"Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes."

If the purpose of the Electoral Register is to, umm, register electors, then using it to look up old friends, find people who owe you money, or send commercial mail is on the face of it incompatible with those purposes. Just because it's happened since the register came into existence doesn't mean that we should continue.

[1] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/ukpga_19980029_en_9#sch1-pt1

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Anonymous Coward

Is opt out informed consent?

How does providing an op-out box to tick constitute obtaining informed consent? Have there not been some rulings about this at EU level by the court of irst instance?

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There are already dangers...

The electoral register has been subject to misuse for decades.

I used to work in a large library where a huge proportion of incoming phone calls were ER enquiries. All anonymous in that most didn't care to identify themselves, and there was no way of checking those who did. Most were credit and debt collection agencies, but some were far more sinister - it only took a modicum of common sense to perceive that many enquirers were up to no good - but my employers didn't care. Over a 10 year period, I knew of 4 cases where SERIOUS domestic and criminal violence resulted from the information, and quite a lot more complaints were received from people amazed that their name and address was being bandied about so freely. Despite my reservations, my employers saw this as no reason not to hand out ER information en masse to anonymous enquirers. In one case an enquirer who turned out to be a loan shark actually threatened ME with violence unless I cooperated - my employers were unmoved (serves me right for being awkward), and I was obliged to comply with such enquiries.

Routinely, even ordinary credit agencies would ask the names of people living on either side of the subject of their enquiry - I always refused such information, but most of my colleagues did not. At one point, when I refused absolutely to do search entire registers for particular names (at the ratepayers' expense!), I was threatened with the sack - the situation only resolved by disallowing me from answering phone calls - wholesale searches carried on.

There have always been serious privacy issues surrounding electoral rolls, and I can't see how actually selling the information cannot but make matters worse - though stopping this practice may well simply send enquirers back to the full unedited rolls in public libraries. Ticking the opt-out box not necessarily an answer unless everyone does it - if a searcher suspects you live in a particular street or small area, then even blank records can give a clue to where un-named people reside. In addition the ER makes it relatively simple for criminals to identify homes most likely to contain single residents - a notorious case a few years ago involved villains who had travelled half the country using ERs to identify suitably vulnerable victims.

I'm sensitive to the need for openness in public records - but in the particular case of electoral registers (the clue being in the word electoral), I see no reason whatever why anyone needs access to any more than their own voting status, and it's high time this particular record was limited to just that.

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Hmm

Two things come to mind.

Firstly, someone mentioned that they've been able to use the register to track down debtors etc. That won't change, you'll still be able to go to the town hall and look in the register. The proposal is to change how much data they sell to whom, and that's what annoys people - that the register is copied onto a disk/tape/whatever and sold to pretty well anyone with the cash.

And to those who say "what's so hard about ticking the box" - well to those people I might point ou that not everyone actually sees the form. I believe it's one form per property and 'someone' fills it in - anyone else put on the form by that 'someone' doesn't necessarily see the form or have any say in the matter.

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Big Brother

You're all missing the point

Anyone want to bet that option 3 is the outcome of this?

For those who haven't read it , it's the one that says "lets get rid of this edited register that's not worth very much and start selling the full one again."

So help to keep our data private and actually respond to the consultation!

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So who fills it in?

I was feeling like causing trouble when the last roll form came in, so I rang the local registration officer with the following question;

"It says on the form that the Householder is legally responsible for filling in the form, and can be prosecuted for failing to do so. This property is inhabited by myself and my wife, and is jointly owned. Which of us is the Householder? It has to be one or the other, there is only space for one signature, so who do you prosecute?"

There has been, and will be, no answer to this question, as there is no legal definition of Householder that works in these circumstances.

By the way, tick the box and junk mail slowly and steadily declines.

Reg icon, for the Electoral Reg

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Anonymous Coward

Good for the economy?

Oh christ, that old chestnut again. The bit of 'the economy' that pimping this stuff is good for is precisely the bit that most of us would happily see being floated off into the north Atlantic and used for naval gunnery practice, along with those who profit from it. People forcibly flogging so-called services you dont want (that frankly no sane human would want) using tactics that ought to be illegal and that generally consist of lies and threats.

Perhaps they could generate a little more cash by pimping details from the ContactPoint database to those famous drug barons wishing to target vulnerable 4 year olds. It all feeds the economy after all, and I'm sure at least some drug dealers beat mobile insurance salesmen hands down for moral fibre.

If democracy (ha ha) is so bloody sacred, why not keep it a little bit separate from spiv-commerce? Or maybe NuLabs democratic credentials are less than polished. I'm fucking sick of the 'economic argument' being a justification for everything.

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Coat

Ahhh, it's only your personal data...

What can possibly go wrong?

PS: This isn't my coat, it's someone else's, ooh and look, here's their drivers licence...

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Go

Tracking Dispersement of Personal Information

The number of times I've been emailed or called by someone who says "we got your information from a mailing list" but then when challenged says "but we don't know which one".

This process should be legislated against. If you gather information about me then you should be forced to track WHERE you obtained it. That way I can backtrack down the line and find out who has been gathering and or distributing my personal information in the first place.

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Happy

Words from the dark side

As one of those who has phoned up people at teatime to sell them shit I can say that some companies cannot even be bothered to buy the ER. They just use the phone book instead.

Going ex-directory and ticking no publication on the ER have I believe allowed me to avoid a great deal of targeted mail, just leaving the "Dear Householder" crap from Sky, Virgin etc.

But note that the full ER can be bought and is used by credit reference agencies. Of course despite being nothing more than a commercial company they can be "Trusted"

The amount of info spewed out by the DVLA to damm near anyone should be viewed as a national disgrace. Does anyone some of those "wheel clamping" companies are anything but a front for private detectives (or flat out criminals) to pull names and addresses from index numbers?

However the situation with the ER is slightly different. It's original purpose was to confirm eligibility to vote and hence participate in the democratic process. To be effective as a way of keeping both voters and governements honest it should show everyone, and be viewable by everyone. Postal electorial fraud was an issue in both the last UK General and coucil elections in the recent past.

Preventing its sale (or wholesale copying) to anyone would be a good first step. Controlling its use by individuals for other purposes is harder. Relase someone elses details only under an FOI request? Require a cross check to see if the requstor has a restraining order against them finding out where the that person lives?

it is not quite as clear cut as some people would think. This government seems to think that tranparency is what individual personal lives should be to them and privacy is what civil servants policy making should enjoy.

And now I must return to training under my Sith master, or "Mandy" as I like to think of him.

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Too late MinionZero

The god botherers monetized your soul centuries ago, where do you think the bureaucraps got the idea.

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Joke

AC@10:18

"Perhaps they could generate a little more cash by pimping details from the ContactPoint database to those famous drug barons wishing to target vulnerable 4 year olds. "

Now *that's* the sort of out-of-the-box thinking the Civil Service need. Have you considered a career in the policy making arm of BERR?

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Electoral Roll Form

I never fill in the stupid form anyway, and I don't care.

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