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Councils sell your details to private companies
COUNCILS in Worcestershire are making money by selling voters’ names and addresses to private companies, it has emerged.
In Worcester, the details of 57,000 residents on an edited version of the electoral roll has been sent to three companies, although the city council will not say which.
The findings, which have been criticised by privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch, have led to concern the practise is encouraging junk mail.
At the moment, everyone who joins the electoral roll has an option to ‘opt out’ of having their details passed on, but very few do.
In Worcester, 76,082 are on the register but 57,011 have not opted out, meaning third parties can “buy” the details.
Your Worcester News can reveal how since 2007, three private individuals and three companies have bought the data, with the city council earning £604.45 from it.
Elsewhere, Malvern Hills District Council sold its register to one charity, making £83.50 and Bromsgrove District Council flogged its database to four companies, worth £336.
Unlike Worcestershire councils, other local authorities responding to a Freedom of Information Request chose to name some of the buyers of the details.
Around the UK it included nightclubs, estate agents, supermarkets, pizza delivery shops and direct marketing firms.
Councillor Aubrey Tarbuck, a former Worcester Mayor, said: “I was not aware this sort of thing was going on at all.
“If councillors had a say over it I’d tell them it is wrong - the money they are making from it is minimal anyway.
“I don’t want it to be sold.”
Under Government law, councils cannot refuse to sell the register to anyone, leading to calls for new legislation to be brought in to change it.
The city council say it has no choice over handing the details of the edited register over, meaning the focus is on MPs changing the law.
Eric Pickles, local government minister, said: “The edited register is a pointless waste of council time, undermines trust in the electoral system and contributes to huge volumes of junk mail - it should be abolished.”
Many other countries work the opposite way - with voters asked to ‘opt in’ for their details to be sent to third parties.
More than 300 councils nationwide sold the edited register to 2,700 individuals and companies, making £250,000.
Nick Pickles, from Big Brother Watch, said: “Registering to vote is a basic part of democracy - it should not be a back door for our names and addresses to be sold to anyone and everyone.”
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