Some of your voter registration details can be purchased by businesses – unless you opt-out.
A tweet by Neira Jones caught my attention this morning:
— Neira Jones (@neirajones) August 17, 2014
Here’s a copy of the letter Neira received, reposted with her kind permission: Notice that her details are already available for purchase by businesses and others and will continue to be available for sale unless she takes action to opt-out. Opting out presumably won’t recall her details from those businesses that already acquired them, but it could prevent future acquisition.
In response to a tweet of mine asking whether this was widely known, Jon Baines helpfully pointed us to a 2010 report by Experian (pdf) that cited a study they conducted that found that 46% had opted out by then. Unsurprisingly, Experian supports the use of the edited register being available:
Experian understands that the driver for this consultation is a suggestion that the existence of the edited register and the use of it by commercial organisations, deters people from registering to vote. It is our view that this is not the case. Currently, 46% of people opt out from their data being on the edited register, suggesting that they are aware both that they can opt out and still be registered to vote. In addition, to support this consultation, Experian conducted a survey of 4600 individuals some of whom are not currently registered to vote. We found that of those not registered either at their current or previous address, 31% were either not interested in voting or could not be bothered to register, 43% were registered elsewhere, at a temporary address or living overseas, 5% did not want to be traced by an ex partner or business associate, 2% were worried about how government might use their data and the same number – just 3% were worried about how commercial companies might use their data. Given the numbers participating, we believe that this does reinforce a view that concern about commercial companies is not a key driver of voting registration.
Furthermore, 89% of those individuals who participated in the survey stated that the critical issue was how they exercise real control and choice over how their data is used.
Much of the debate around the edited register has suggested that its main, or even sole, use is for the creation of marketing or contact lists. In fact, the limited uses for which the full register may be checked result in a high level of dependence on the edited register for a wide range of largely non marketing and beneficial activities such as checking applicants for insurance, applications for jobs and rental housing in the private sector, tracing beneficiaries of pensions, wills and insurance – full details of the many uses are in this paper. As a result, the creation of contact or marketing lists is a very small part of the whole picture.
While a 46% opt-out rate is higher than what I expected to hear, it still means that over half of registered voters had not opted-out. If they choose not to opt-out because they welcome contacts or see value in businesses having access to their extracted information, fine. But if they don’t know and haven’t opted-out out of ignorance or sloth, you can help get the word out to your UK friends and family.