Page last updated at 01:42 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 02:42 UK

Officials 'back ban on data sale'

Polling station sign
Critics fear the sale of electoral data deters people from registering to vote

There is massive support among election officials in England for a ban on the sale of voters' personal data to direct mail companies, a survey has found.

The Local Government Association poll of more than 200 administrators found 98% supported an end to the practice.

Voters can opt out of the roll sold to firms, but the Information Commissioner has recommended an outright ban.

The Direct Marketing Association said the lists were used mainly to verify details rather than to gather names.

The LGA said that far from being a significant earner, councils made on average just 2,000 a year from sales.

'Poor message'

Since 2002, anyone registering to vote in England has been able to tick a box to stop their name appearing on an edited version of the electoral register which can be bought by direct mail companies.

We feel that selling the edited register is an unsatisfactory way for local authorities to treat personal information
Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner

To date, about 40% of people have chosen to opt out.

Last month, in a government-ordered review, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said providing electoral rolls to marketing firms sent out a "poor message" about the treatment of personal data.

"We feel that selling the edited register is an unsatisfactory way for local authorities to treat personal information," Mr Thomas said.

Then, an LGA spokesman told the BBC it was "no skin off our noses" to end the practice altogether.

Now, the LGA's survey has found overwhelming support for that opinion across the country. Many officials said they believed data sales deterred some people from registering to vote.

The Direct Marketing Association said the majority of its members used the edited roll only to confirm the accuracy of the personal details they held.

And it said that banning sales could lead to more, not less unwanted mail.




SEE ALSO
Councils 'happy not to sell data'
11 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Gripes over charities' junk mail
07 May 08 |  Business
Postman 'inspires junk opt-outs'
03 Dec 06 |  South East Wales
Watchdog studies 'nuisance' calls
17 Jun 05 |  Business

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