Government report calls for voter data handling reform

Voters’ data should not be sold the direct marketing companies because it sends out a “poor message”, according to a Government Report. It calls for a wide-ranging reform of the way that the organisations treat information about members of the public.

The government-commissioned review, published today (July 11), was led by Information Commissioner Richard Thomas and Wellcome Trust director Dr Mark Walport and was commissioned a week before HM Revenue and Customs lost discs containing the details of 25 million consumers.

It recommends that the Information commissioner should be given the power to fine companies that deliberately break privacy rules, and that organisations should publish their privacy policies explaining how and why they use people’s details.

The report adds that data sharing across both the private and public sectors is confusing – and that the public are not always aware how their personal information is used. The review calls for wide scale reform and a ministerial inquiry into companies that gather and sell on the personal details of members of the public.

Thomas’ says he is particularly worried about councils selling edited versions of the electoral roll, which the public are able to opt out, which are used by direct marketing companies. He adds that using data collected for the democratic process in this way was unsatisfactory.

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