back to article New voting rules leave innocent Brits at risk of SPAM TSUNAMI

Changes to the electoral registration system have sparked fears that Britons are about to be swamped by a tsunami of unwanted spam from companies that harvest and sell on citizens' personal data. The Register has learned that a number of councils across the UK have not properly informed residents how to enter their details on …

  1. dwrjones87

    Conwy Council used to put on their forms that you could permanently opt out under s. 11 Data Protection Act, and apparently still give you the option. I must admit, it's a level of enlightenment that I thought was beyond most councils

    https://www.conwy.gov.uk/dr-erole-optout.asp?cat=6755&doc=24178&Language=1

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Yeah but they make enough money by fining motorists who missed the 50p night parking charge.*

      * Hint - it's written in gold on a black background, buried about two thirds of the way down the right hand column, somewhere between charge for boats and camels.

  2. DaLo

    Why should signing up on the electoral roll, a legal obligation that you have to do, be in any way linked to marketing and advertising from private companies in the first place?

    There doesn't seem to be any good reason why they need to be intertwined like this.

    1. dogged

      Agreed. Scrap the open register and let 192.com go fish or pay people for being their product.

      1. brooxta
        Trollface

        It's all part of the rise of the corporations - a necessary step. Haven't you read any dystopian sci-fi?

    2. graeme leggett

      It brings in a modicum of income for the council, which is not of itself a bad thing.

      But it's only reasonable provided the product electorate are properly informed and enabled to make the decision for themselves.

      In the olden days, the likes of 192 would have to copy the names and addresses off a printed copy - which would be one way of slowing them down...

      1. DaLo

        "It brings in a modicum of income for the council, which is not of itself a bad thing."

        I would disagree - I would not expect that the details of people signing on to Job Seekers Allowance are sold to pay day loan companies if a box is/isn't ticked, or that people who submit planning applications who fail to tick a box are sold to a construction company etc. even if the money goes into the public purse.

        Just because it raises a bit of extra money by selling your data that you have gathered for a completely different (and legally enforced) purpose and that money is part of the public funds does not make it okay, it is still a "bad thing".

        The same as insurance companies selling your details to claims companies - even if it does reduce your insurance rates a little (although obviously the extra claims negate this) it is still a bad thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @DaLo

          Under what circumstances do you think any private individual would WANT his or her details to be placed on the "open" register? If he wants to contribute to the council's coffers, he can just send them a cheque.

      2. Just Enough
        Alert

        A disgrace

        If councils want a modicum of income then they should be raising it through the proper channels, like council tax.

        Registering on the electoral role should never be something that anyone should ever have to negotiate through carefully, least they end up on some third party website that have nothing to do with them. The electorate role should be closed to all but those involved with elections and its a disgrace that it ever being accessed by marketers, far less outfits that are selling your details on an individual basis.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        > It brings in a modicum of income for the council, which is not of itself a bad thing.

        No, it doesn't. The - legally capped - fee councils are allowed to charge works out at about 1p/name and it doesn't cover costs.

        The utterly mindboggling thing in all this is that most groups (including the electoral commission) regard the open register as a privacy invasion and have been recommending it be abolished for several years - yet this manufactured consent fiasco was allowed to occur at all.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Alan Brown

          "The utterly mindboggling thing in all this is that most groups (including the electoral commission) regard the open register as a privacy invasion and have been recommending it be abolished for several years..."

          Welcome to "British representative democracy" - in which your MP represents his or her interests and that of big corporations. Your interests as a constituent and taxpayer? Don't make me laugh.

  3. Fihart

    More people will boycott Electoral Register.

    In urban areas with properties split into several flats or (worse) bedsits, electoral registration is already hit and miss. Here we have disconnected doorbells because the bona fide vistors always call on mobile when they arrive.

    Quite possibly the majority of occupants from overseas don't even think they qualify to vote -- and, apparently, some UK-born flat dwellers think they aren't entitled because of their short occupancy.

    The outcome is that as a tenants' interests are under-represented politically, especially as so many MPs are, themselves, private landlords.

    1. dogged

      Re: More people will boycott Electoral Register.

      According to Private Eye, 2.5% of the population of the UK are private landlords but 25% of the population of the House of Commons are private landlords.

  4. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Drifting OT slightly ...

    funnily enough, we had 2 letters yesterday - one for the wife, and one for sprog (a brief usenet discussion suggests I should also receive on, but they're being batched).

    Anyway, their names are being kept *off* the open register (according to the letter) which is following the previous choice I made when I last submitted the form.

    Reading this makes an interesting point:

    "The Government has stated that 35 million voters will be transferred to the new system automatically as their identity can verified using the Department of Work and Pensions database. The remainder will be required to prove their identity in order to remain on the electoral register"

    so clearly wife+child are in that system. However there are posts from people who are being asked to verify their identity.

    I would be curious to know - I wonder if we'll ever be told - how many "voters" disappear after this exercise ?

    Also, is this the first time that the DWP "system" has been connected to issues involving citizenship ? Presumably there are NI number holders in their system who are *not* eligible to vote ?

  5. Ho Ho Hipster

    "Here we have disconnected doorbells because the bona fide vistors always call on mobile when they arrive."

    Mail order deliverers?

    1. Brenda McViking

      Mail order deliverers?

      Since when do they ever ring the fracking doorbell?

      They tiptoe up to the door, tap it with their finger twice, wait 5 seconds and then launch your new monitor over the fence and leave a "sorry you weren't in" note.

      1. Nuke
        Meh

        @ Brenda McViking - Re: Mail order deliverers?

        Wrote "They tiptoe up to the door ... and then launch your new monitor over the fence"

        ..... or they take it away and leave a note that you must collect it from their depot. I have been asked to collect from a depot which was further away than where I ordered the goods from.

        1. F0rdPrefect
          Devil

          Re: @ Brenda McViking - Mail order deliverers?

          ..... or they take it away

          Nuke, you are assuming that it is on the van in the first place!

    2. Fihart

      Doorbells @Ho Ho Hipster

      Mail order deliveries are a nightmare in London -- companies don't seem to train drivers to realise that (for example) 123a Example Road is usually NOT next to 123 Example Road but may be round the back or above. This has even led to lost utility bills via TNT's regular postal "service" where you'd think the mailman would have discovered this through familiarity with his patch.

      As for phoning -- just seems logical to include a phone number on delivery instructions and hopefully with better tracking technology the companies should be able to phone and give an estimate of when a delivery is scheduled (instead of expecting one to wait in all day).

      Meanwhile local shopping centre has Amazon lockers and I gather other brands are being installed at Post Office branches.

      1. Nuke
        Meh

        @Fihart - Re: Doorbells @Ho Ho Hipster

        Wrote :- "just seems logical to include a phone number on delivery instructions"

        I have a regular gas tank delivery. I have asked delivery guys to phone 5 minutes before they arrive so I can unlock a side gate and get my dog out of the garden.

        They told me that the company mobiles they carry can only ring their HQ. This is not uncommon I gather, presumably to stop delivery men from using company phones for personal calls. You can hardly expect them to use their own phones.

        1. Pookietoo

          Re: You can hardly expect them to use their own phones.

          It wouldn't be hard to automate a system whereby the office calls the recipient shortly before the driver arrives, and could improve the efficiency of the service considerably, especially if the recipient could choose at that time to have a delivery left somewhere, or returned to the depot for collection or redelivery.

  6. thondwe

    Wife and I both had the form (from Swansea Council - name and shame) which said we'd been transferred to the new system and put on the "open register". previously I always ticked the box for not - so wife rang to get us back off - with little security checking - so presume an unscrupulous someone could ring and get us put back on the open register.

    Open Register should be ditched anyway - I have enough cold callers at work as it is (if you call through the switchboard or with a blocked number - I don't answer anyway anymore!)

    1. Pookietoo

      Re: ring and get us put back on the open register

      Why would they bother when they already have your details?

  7. Refugee from Windows

    DPA

    There should be a box saying " the information provided is for Electoral Administration purposes only " for you to tick. No selling it off, no third parties, no excuses.

    1. Ian Bush

      Re: DPA

      'There should be a box saying " the information provided is for Electoral Administration purposes only " for you to tick.'

      Rather, at least on line, there should be a box for you to untick

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: DPA

        Rather, there should be a box that you tick that says "Please Spam me."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: DPA

      If I may venture to disagree, there should be no box at all. Information collected for the Electoral Register should be used for the Electoral Register, and nothing else whatsoever. Otherwise, jail sentences should be handed down.

      If commercial enterprises want people's private information, they should be free to offer whatever inducements they see fit in return. (Provided they can get their spam delivered, which again they shouldn't).

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: DPA

        The Electoral Register has always been open for the public to check, and there is a very good reason for that to continue. If the public cannot check it is accurate, elections can be fixed. I know of cases where dead people have 'voted'.

        Now, it would be nice for the DPA to be used to say, 'this data can only be used for Election purposes. Anyone can check it to make sure the election rules are followed, but not use it for anything else', but it is difficult to prove where the data came from in court.

        Perhaps the databases should be seeded with canary names, any use of those by marketeers gets a swift prosecution?

      2. F0rdPrefect

        Re: DPA

        "Information collected for the Electoral Register should be used for the Electoral Register, and nothing else whatsoever."

        Not to cross check your address when applying for credit or a bank account

        Not to help avoid identity fraud

        No. Nothing else whatever.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I moved to my borough some 26 years ago...

    I visited the town hall and personally delivered a letter to them stating the reasons, both legal and personal, why I wanted to be kept off all public (open) records for all time due to the nature of my work. Same with the phone company and the telephone directory.

    I got a lovely letter from the council about the changes stating that my wishes are being respected under the new system, but also telling me how I could change my previous request. Not on your nelly!

    1. keithpeter
      Windows

      Re: When I moved to my borough some 26 years ago...

      Likewise Brum council. Letter was quite clear and well laid out, and mail-merged with *my* existing details on already. Not that I'm worth trying to sell anything to.

  9. Anonymous Coward/2.0
    Megaphone

    Derbyshire Dales are auto-opt-in

    Even though on the old register I always asked to be removed from the edited register Derbyshire Dales are automatically opting people in to the open register. I received a letter from DD saying I was already registered on the electoral roll and the open register and that it was up to me to contact them to get removed. Just phoned them to be removed and the officer agreed with me that the default should be opted-out not opted-in but that was the policy blah blah blah. All hail big corporations and the sale of contact information...

    Question? Do councils make money from selling the Open Register or is it central guvmint that is making the money?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Derbyshire Dales are auto-opt-in

      "Do councils make money from selling the Open Register or is it central guvmint that is making the money?"

      A third possibility is that individuals in local government are getting most of it, having concluded their own arrangements with corporations. (See Private Eye's "Rotten Boroughs", passim).

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Derbyshire Dales are auto-opt-in

        "A third possibility is that individuals in local government are getting most of it, having concluded their own arrangements with corporations."

        If someone's making money out of it, it's likely to be inside the Electoral Commission, but it's always possible that backscratching agreements were reached with EROs in the 12 local authorities involved.

        Of course the possibility of a criminal forensic audit of personal income of all the individuals involved within councils and the EC might slow that kind of activity down. Not that it'd ever happen.

  10. esucmn
    Flame

    Self serving bastards

    The government working for its own ends rather than those of the citizens? Nah - that'd never happen....

  11. someone called ross

    Try living in Guildford

    I filled in the form for all my family some time ago, ticked the box as I don't want spam. Came back from holiday to find letters for us all saying that they have set up a new on-line system for registration and have put all of us on the open register and we have to contact them to have it altered, so what was the point in filling in the form? Muppets!

  12. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Similar cock-up in Newcastle

    A lot of people got letters saying they'd been put on the "open" register when they'd previously opted out. Their electoral services telephones were then busy for several weeks as everyone phoned up to complain, to find out when they did get through that it was all "a mistake". They've subsequently sent out almost impenetrably worded letters that appear to suggest that people who had previously opted out would actually be on the closed register. Though by this stage, it's not clear whether their actions and intentions are in synch.

    Despite the administrative incompetence, you have to have some sympathy with the councils. They didn't want to make the electoral register available to marketeers (they reasonably thought it would bring voter registration into disrepute), but were forced to do so by central government who saw it as a scheme to make £££s fast.

    1. MrT

      Re: Central Government...

      ... the owners of services like 192.com having influenced whichever wonk they buddy up to in Central Government to push this through in the first place. Very similar to the proposed NHS patient data sell-off, to the insurance industry wallahs who play croquet or polo, or went to Eton with, Johnny Thisthator-Theother MP.

  13. Steve Gill

    Old data on 192.com

    Even if you have carefully ticked the opt-out option since it went on the forms 192.com is still happily showing the entries for the address prior to the opt-out being an option. Instead of following the request on the latest extract they are using the newest data they can find that doesn't specifically tell them to keep their mitts off it :(

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Old data on 192.com

      NOTE: Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) get statutory access to the CLOSED register and are legally entitled to onsell the data they get hold of.

      This is clearly against DPA principles and subverts the entire closed register process in any case.

      192.com got around losing their court case by managing to strike a deal with one of the 3 consumer-focussed CRAs to hoover up data.

      To prevent this happening, you need to hit your council _and_ the CRAs with a DPA section 11 Data protection Notice you can send in (by email!)

      http://www.stopjunkmail.org.uk/ has a good template at http://www.stopjunkmail.org.uk/guide/contact_sender.php - sign the petition while you are there.

      CRA Addresses confirmed to be working for Section11 notices are:

      administrator@192.COM

      compliancedept@uk.experian.com

      info@callcreditmarketing.com - this is where 192 claim to have bought their information from

      customer.relationsuk@equifax.com

      Council addresses are a tad harder: You should get hold of your local council's Electoral Returning Officer email address - phone them up and ask for it, or their general address. Once the email has been delivered they are obliged to act on it, even if the initial delivery was to the wrong department.

      192 responded quickly.

      Equifax are trying to wriggle out of it (they initially responded with an illegal "Here, fill in this credit reporting form" response.)

      Callcredit and Experian haven't bothered responding yet (and by all account probably won't)

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Old data on 192.com

      I just checked myself on 192.com and found they have my name on a company directorship. I'm assuming (not wanting to pay them) that this must be the only directorship I've held in the UK, for a Resident's Association over 20 years ago.

      I wonder how far back their records go… maybe I'll search for William the Conqueror next.

  14. David_H
    Big Brother

    Not all can opt out

    As a Parish Councillor my details have to appear on the Open Register, and I guess that it's the same for anyone else in public office. Up until now, I've not been bothered with too much junk mail (I am signed up to both the Mail Preference Service and the Royal Mail door-to-door opt out), but this has me slightly concerned that I'll suddenly be inundated. If there's too much junk mail as a result of this, I'll just stop being a public minded individual and stop being a Parish Councillor so that I can come off the Open Register.

    1. Steve Gill

      Re: Not all can opt out

      Good luck with that David,

      I contacted 192.com and they confirmed they use electoral roll data from 2002 on. There was no option to remove yourself from the open roll until 2003 so it is exceptionally likely that their decision to use data from 2002 on was cynically intentional.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not all can opt out

        You could if you had a specific reason to not be on what was known as the "edited" register, now named the "open" register. You simply had to satisfy the registrar that you had good reason, hence why I had to take a signed letter to the town hall and go and meet their registrar. She was perfectly happy to redact my information during publication of the public register.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Not all can opt out

        "There was no option to remove yourself from the open roll until 2003 so it is exceptionally likely that their decision to use data from 2002 on was cynically intentional.There was no option to remove yourself from the open roll until 2003 so it is exceptionally likely that their decision to use data from 2002 on was cynically intentional."

        The good news there is that even old entries are subject to a DPA section 11 notice.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Not all can opt out

      "As a Parish Councillor my details have to appear on the Open Register"

      That doesn't stop you issuing a DPA Section 11 notice to prevent your data being used or onsold for marketing purposes.

  15. Lamont Cranston
    Unhappy

    "officers employed in the the interest of local people, rather than marketers"

    This seems charmingly naive. My experience of local council officers would suggest that they couldn't be less interested in the interests of local people if they tried.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    surely a DPA breach

    If you have previously made your opt-out preference clear, then any internal change by local authority is irrelevant. They have the ability to transfer those recorded preferences from the old copy of the register to the new one, and that's what they should do.

    If it's OK for them to do this this year, and make everyone re-specify their opt-out preference, is it going to be OK for them to make a similar change next year too?

    If it's OK for a local authority to pull this stunt, is it OK for any data controller to do it too?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    my council

    Said in the letter, that I was not on the open register, and then in the paragraph below that I was.

    No idea if I am or not!

  18. 27escape
    FAIL

    They don't need to pre-tick

    Just change the wording

    * Do you want to be on the open register which will allow companies to spam you yes/no

    1. 2460 Something

      Re: They don't need to pre-tick

      Shouldn't even be that. Any form that is asking to sell your data should be opt in only. The default should always be to give you the highest level of privacy. But then those in charge wouldn't *ahem* randomly win those cars/holidays/suitcases of cash.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Time for a map of councils who can trusted and who can't?

    Staying off open databases IE the types that are sold to marketing companies, is SOP if you want to reduce (but don't expect to totally avoid) avoid a torrent of useless s**t through your door.

    Dummy phone numbers, addresses, emails and names are all good when requesting product literature.

    Remember if you keep a track of which alias you used you can track which company sold your details to the A-hole on the phone.

    Signed

    Orinoco Womble.

  20. Santa from Exeter

    Local Confusion

    The letter from my City Council didn't make it clear whether they were honouring my previous opt-out or not.

    Simply solved 'though, I just went on the Gov website and registered to vote online, choosing the 'bugger off admen' box

    1. dogged

      Re: Local Confusion

      I have just done likewise. Thanks for setting an example.

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Local Confusion

        Even simpler, Bristol's website has a form to add or remove your details from the open register.

        Unfortunately, though, all I need to opt A N Other in or out, regardless of their own preference, is to know who they are and where they live. There's also a compulsory phone number field, but that's (a) probably not checked and (b) something else I could very well know about A N Other anyway.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Local Confusion

          "Unfortunately, though, all I need to opt A N Other in or out, regardless of their own preference, is to know who they are and where they live. "

          I pointed this out to the Electoral Commission and my local ERO when they both parrotted the party line that they are not legally required to send out letters notifying people of the change.

          They still seem to think that this is an OK state of affairs.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Local Confusion

      "I just went on the Gov website and registered to vote online, choosing the 'bugger off admen' box..."

      Thank goodness central government can be trusted not to sell your details to the corporations, even though it was central government that created the "open register" at the request of the corporations.

      Oh wait.

  21. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Amazed...

    ...that my local inepts appear to have carried through my previous opt-out as the letter said I wasn't on the open register.

    As to all the other junk mail, it gets sent back marked as unwanted junk. If it contains a return envelope that goes back separately - they can pay twice. The unaddressed junk just gets shoved into a post-box sometime. If the Royal Mail think they can make money that way they can carry the cost of disposal. If everyone did the same they'd have to quit the service.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amazed...

      Virgin Media send junk mail every month to "The Householder" at my address. I always post it back as "Return to Sender" - although I would bet the Royal Mail have a standing directive to ditch it quickly. The first time I did that I blanked the envelope's transparent address window with a dry marker pen. Two days later it came back through my letter box with the blanking ink scrubbed off. I now use a permanent marker.

      A mail shot once a year in case of an owner's move seems a reasonable advertising strategy - but not every month. It is even more ridiculous that the postman also delivers an identical unaddressed one at about the same time.

      The Virgin Media Help Line insist that I am marked on their database as not wanting junk mail. Weasel words - they obviously mean that my specific name is marked, not my house.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Amazed...

        "The Virgin Media Help Line insist that I am marked on their database as not wanting junk mail. Weasel words - they obviously mean that my specific name is marked, not my house."

        A Data Protection Notice will slow them down.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazed...

        Hmmm... "Virgin Media... weasel words..."

        "Virgin Weasel" has a nice ring to it!

      3. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Amazed...

        I get the same junk from Virgin Media, and I can't even get there services here even if I was interested.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Amazed...

      "The unaddressed junk just gets shoved into a post-box sometime. If the Royal Mail think they can make money that way they can carry the cost of disposal. "

      Please don't do that.

      Posties around here just drop it on the footpath when they open the postbox.

      Mind you posties around here also wilfully ignore the Royal mail optout and shove junkmail in mailboxes even when there signs on said mailbox to remind them not to do it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stevenage Borough Council appear to be doing it right

    Had a letter arrive yesterday explaining the changes and stating that I am "not listed on the open register" which matches the opt out I made a number of years back

    The letter also has info about what the two registers are as well as a url for more info about the changes (www/gov/uk/yourvotematters) and the the last paragraph has instructions about how to change the opt in/out status by either email, phone or in writing

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Stevenage one does raise some interesting questions though. IIRC the envelope says it must not be forwarded if the addressee has moved. As no confirmation is needed every year then what happens when someone dies? Do they stay on the electoral register for possibly years until someone returns an envelope marked "not known"?

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      But not Dacorum, just down the road

      'You do not need to take further action' in bold on the front of the letter, but two paragraphs later 'Please note your details are on the open register' - in spite of the fact of my ticking the appropriate box in previous years.

      Thanks, Dacorum.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Stevenage Borough Council appear to be doing it right"

      Stevange is one of the LA EROs which fought off 192.com. :)

      Good on 'em.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What register?

    Once upon a time I was summoned for jury service, and wasted two weeks of my life in a smoke filled waiting room. A year or two later, I was lucky enough to be chosen again, by which time I was working on contract, so the effect on my income was disastrous. I have not been on the Electoral Register since. It's not like it gives you the opportunity to vote for someone you trust and admire, is it?

    Anon, because I don't want to be forcibly registered.

    1. Caesarius
      Unhappy

      Re: What register?

      The government site has this:

      If you’re asked to register and don’t do so, your local Electoral Registration Office could fine you £80.

      So how do you avoid being asked? (Clearly I'm heading towards not voting!)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What register?

      You can postpone jury service when called to serve if your circumstances would be adversely affected by it. You can only do this once though (as far as i am aware), but in the case of working as a contractor, you should be able to show significant hardship would ensue from loss of income

      And the comment saying you can be fined is now correct thanks to a change in the law that nobody cared about or said anything to stop making it a criminal offence not to be registered & for no payment of the fine to be a civil offence with a sliding scale of fees for non-compliance

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "Currently, voters are offered the choice to tick a box and put themselves on the open register each time they fill in an electoral registration form"

    Not just voters, but non-voters as well. It's a register of *electors*(1), not a register of voters. (You can examine the list of people who have bothered to get off their arse and actually voted in the six months following an election.) There are *NO* changes to *voting* rules.

    (1)and potential electors who will become electors in the term of the register.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Currently, voters are offered the choice to tick a box and put themselves on the open register each time they fill in an electoral registration form"

      Actually that's tick the box to take yourself OFF the open register - which is Bass-Ackwards and arguably a violation of DPA Principles as well as PERC 2011 regulations.

  25. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "Under the new system ... their choice is remembered, which means that if they accidentally ticked the box and put themselves on the open register, they will be spammed indefinitely until they work out the correct bureaucratic procedure to remove themselves from it once and for all."

    Or until next year at the annual renewal and they have the option to tick/untick the box again.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Or until next year at the annual renewal and they have the option to tick/untick the box again."

      Going forward, people won't have to renew every year.

      The issue for those who've been toggled into the open register is that even if they managed to get 192 and other entities to remove their data, it's already been onsold to unknown 3rd parties and as such it's extremely hard to put that genie back into the bottle.

      Which in turn means that the damage will be ongoing for years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Going forward, people won't have to renew every year."

        If no elector renewal reply is needed - then when are people automatically removed from the register because they have moved or died?

        In the past - the first year a renewal was not submitted would remove the entry.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          In my council area, when you phone them to change your Council Tax details, they ask if you would like them to forward the details to the electoral registration department at the same time. I'm not sure what happens if you don't give them permission though.

  26. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "Have you ended up on the open register and been bombarded with spam? Get in touch in confidence and let us know"

    I'm on the open register. I have never been bombarded with junk mail because of it. (I presume "junk mail" is what you actually mean as the electoral register does not hold email addresses, just building addresses.)

  27. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "The council agreed to take me off permanently, but did not do the same for other people living in my house."

    What part of "individual registration" do you not understand? You can only change **YOUR** electoral registration details, you now **CANNOT** change your household's details on their behalf.

  28. Someone Else Silver badge
    Mushroom

    And I thought that OUR election stuff was complete bollocks!

    (By "our", I meant on the left side of the Pond...)

    But this makes elections in Florida look positively utopian!

    What you you Brits thinking?!? Registration for elections is (or, at least is supposed to be) a civic procedure, an exercise of a fundamental right granted by the government to its citizens. Note that nowhere in that last sentence was the word "marketing" used. Why the fuck do the governmental agencies involved (I'm sure that is plural...brain-dead bureaucrats have to ostensibly be given something to do) believe that they can blithely give away what is personal private information to Marketing types? That such a thing is even an option is fucking moronic.

    Look, we here in the Colonies have the National Congressional elections coming up in a couple of months. Voter registration is a big deal here (just ask a Republican...). If it were understood that by the simple act of registering to vote, our personal information could be freely given away to all and sundry, I'm quite sure the world would get a first hand view of how our Founding Fathers meant for the Second Amendment to be applied.

    Come ON, Britian! Wake the fuck up!

  29. Oldfogey

    Perspective

    Until 2003 there was only one register, and it was REQUIRED by law to be sold to anybody who asked. Once upon a time this didn't matter much - it was only available on paper. Later it was available as a computer file, and thus good for sending junk mail.

    There were a lot of complaints, over many years, until eventually the edited register was introduced. This could still be sold to anybody, but you could tick a box to not be on it. Junk mailers still used the 2002 list, but this is gradually getting so flakey that it may not be any use for much longer.

    Credit reference agencies still get the full version, but it is an offence (specific, not just DPA) for them to sell or give it to anybody else. The low value of the list would not, in any case, be worth the risk to their business model.

    On a side note, before the individual registration issue, before it came in a letter would arrive, addressed to "The Householder" saying that it was a criminal offence for said householder not to fill in the form. I contacted our Electoral Registration Officer to ask who the would prosecute in such case, and was told either the owner, or the tenant who had signed the rental. I pointed out that our house was in joint names, and over recent years we had taken it in turns to sign the form - so who would be prosecuted. He had no answer, and said that they had never actually prosecuted anyone anyway.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Perspective

      "There were a lot of complaints, over many years, until eventually the edited register was introduced. "

      It took a court case - filed by one man - in 2002.

      At which point the EC discovered they were subject to DPA laws after all.

      "Credit reference agencies still get the full version, but it is an offence (specific, not just DPA) for them to sell or give it to anybody else."

      Please point to that. Callcreditmarketing ARE selling information onwards that they have derived from the Full Register and it would be no surprised to discover that Equifax and Experian are too, given they are multinationals with form for privacy breaches.

  30. Iron Duke

    The old system was also bent. In the early 2000s my wife and I bought a UK flat as non-residents (90 day rule) & so not eligible to vote. Told the local council and their voter registration guy. Four years in, the council ignored my return form specifying us as non-res, registered us, and put us on the open register. We were inundated with junk but it took a while to find out that the council had sold our info to three UK database companies. The council refused to come clean with us and ignored 2 FoI requests, so we called in the Information Commissioner. He told the local council off, ordered it to expunge our personal data from everyone they'd flogged or given it to (barring of course the security services), said it would probably not happen again, but refused to tell us what had been done to prevent repetition. We did a few protective things and the council did expunge our data (but not, of course copies) and didn't bother us again.

    Now we've become resident and must register with these crooks on pain of a fine. Of course we'll tick the correct box, but their new form says that the non-open electoral register can be 'used for other limited purposes specified by law, such as: detecting crime, calling people for jury service, checking credit applications'. I've asked them to fully specify the 'such as', but they won't, and taken with the 'checking credit' loophole, it's clear they're up to their old tricks. So back into battle; if El Reg keeps tracking this I'll post updates.

    (Reg, email me if you want the council's identity).

    1. All names Taken
      Alien

      Name that council?

  31. All names Taken
    Holmes

    Brits ...

    uncivil serventia strike again?

    Look, you can't keep multiple civil servants on prime minister income levels, maintain juicy salaries and uh-huh baby conditions of employment when taxes and tax revenues are decreasing by act of elected members.

    It stands to reason that money must be extorted from elsewheres and one of those elsewheres is data held by said uncivil serventia.

  32. Rampant Spaniel

    So 15 councils decided to act in the best interests of their constituents rather than making money for their lady boy junket / research trip. Bravo, I'm amazed any of them would do that.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My council

    My council wrote to me with a telephone number to call to remove myself from the spam register. This process consisted of entering a six-digit security code and then an eight-digit security code and then pressing 1. I'm wondering if I can just make up these codes randomly...

  34. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    No sympathy from me!

    "Despite the administrative incompetence, you have to have some sympathy with the councils."

    I don't have to have any sympathy for them. Being transferred from paper to electronic records ***IS NOT*** an excuse to ignore a person's privacy. They should have either 1) Respected people's preferences; those on open registry could go on the open registry in electronic form, and those not on open registry would stay off open registry. Or 2) Transfer nobody to the electronic registry, if you have to register every year anyway then why wouldn't they turn on the electronic system and let it fill up with registrations as people actually register?

    So, do you run into the problem there where companys sell, re-sell, and re-re-sell the same info? Or do these companys jettison your info once it's unavailable from the original source? Here, I think I could end up with some numpties putting my name on a list, and by the time I'd get the mail saying they'd done it, at least one company would already have my name from that list and would re-sell it for all eternity. Boy would I ever sue my city council if they did this to me!!! My parents still get occasional junk mail for me, and I haven't lived there for over 15 years.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should dimwits be allowed to vote?

    Yes, it could be simpler. Yes, they could stop asking you to opt out every year and remember your choice. No, I can't think of any valid reason for the edited electoral roll to be sold in the first place. But come on, it's not that complicated a form, or difficult to find the opt-out box. If people are too dim to work that out, or can't be bothered to read the form they're signing, then should anyone take any notice of where they eventually end up scrawling a cross come election time?

  36. Alan Brown Silver badge

    FWIW

    Mole Valley have just refused a FOI request for all the details of the legal agreement they signed with 192.com AND to know the numbers toggled from the closed to open register.

    They're trying to use section 36 of the FOI. This won't end well (for them)

  37. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Not trivial issues

    These are not trivial issues.

    This is in part due to the English, Welsh, Scots or Northern Ireland interpretation and application of the constitution. Councils are also local authorities.

    The trouble is multiple tensions arise as a local authority cannot take legal action upon itself even if the service provisioning arm (usually improper anyway and Councils are crap service providers anyway) is breaking the said councils rules and regulations.

    I could go on but shan't

  38. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    ps

    There is an important, crucial and vital importance in separating elected members from civil servants in the term "government".

    Civil servants are supposed to be the do-ers making real the aims of elected guvmint but human beings being what human beings be the civil servants are merely optimising their career and earning potentials and stuff the overview what's in it for me m8?

    Most times it is elected members doing the bidding of civil servants so we really cannot describe UK as a democracy it really is a fascism?

  39. logical 26

    hypocrites

    The government creates law that prosecutes parents from keeping their children off of school for holiday purposes, but yet still something that is highly dangerous such as the open register practices has no governance. That means any random can harm you or your family. It seems like a tragedy has to happen before this matter is taken as it should be 'SERIOUSLY' and all for the sake of electoral purposes, which I would like to stress is by law requirement.... Makes you wonder what is the real reason for the open register

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