Abuse of personal data - how data sharing between banks, hospitals and insurance companies undermines privacy in the UK.

These responses to the SeeRed electoral rolls webpage were received in November 2005 and December 2010. Despite its age, the webpage is still popular on internet searches.

Dear Dr Wozniak

After coming across your site by accident, I wanted to write and let you know that I am glad people such as yourself are campaigning against misuse of the electoral rolls. I have long been concerned about my details being found, principally on the internet, because of electoral roll sale, but also via, for example, one local call centre I know of which handles records for banks, hospitals and insurance companies - records which if kept within the health service, banks service etc., would never normally be combined, but the use of the same call centre handling company used by these varied organisations now means these records are cross-referenced, and that the people/company accessing them might not be as careful in confidentiality as the ones within the individual primary organisations. And as someone whose details were so combined by this third party organisation, I can state I wasn't even advised by either bank or health service that my records were to be passed on to any other company. I only found this out when a friend applied for a job at said company and was told of the work involved and client companies they served.

Having opted-out of the full electoral register since that option was included, and having written to a few internet sites to have my details removed competely from their sites, I still find that there are some sites which either haven't removed my details, or removed them temporarily, or remove the present years but refuse to remove details from prior to 2002 - and since I haven't moved house in that time I could still be traced by them - and those are only the free sites which I can check up on, for I refuse to pay some of the prices on the many pay search sites to find out if they are doing as I ask and removing my details there.

Since our local authorities and our government have mostly caused this problem by selling off our voter details without our permission, I feel they should also provide a central (and secure) register where the public can request their details be removed from all such internet sites forthwith, including records from prior to 2002 - and that centrally run organisation have control over the very many internet search sites (new ones springing up all the time, impossible for individuals to keep track of) and the details these sites can use or must exclude and regulate them rigorously as abiding by that central register opt-out. At the moment the onus is on me to find them all, contact them all, then check up to ensure they do as I ask - hardly fair since I didn't cause my problem - my telephone number, for example has never been online since I always was able to ensure I was ex-directory, but name and address - potentially more dangerous in the public domain, is there for all to see and use.

After all, in these days of increasing identity theft, when the government puts out television adverts warning the public to be careful of their personal details, it makes someone such as myself, who has always been extraordinarily careful about my financial security and general privacy, enraged to find that I can be searched out online by any tom, dick or harry simply because my government, both local and national, have been the ones who have been irresponsible and careless with my details and that I have absolutely no control over it - to then be lectured by them about being careful of identity theft is outrageous. So I support anyone standing out against carelessness or misuse of anyones personal details. Well done.

Yours (Ms) Ixxxxxx Mxxxxxx

If you still get responses, I would like to say I wonder if we will ever be able to protect our privacy again. Even if I can get off the public electoral roll, I can't stop the land registry passing out the name of the person or company who owns my flat.

I had a problem when a problematic relative looked up my address on the land registry site, got my landlords unusual non English name, looked it up on 192.com (another VERY dangerous website) and called them pretending to be me. What they really wanted was to suss if I still lived there, but I was put in a very difficult position with my landlord as a result of what they said while pretending to be me. Up till then I was viewed as sensible and reliable by my landlord.

To this day I dare not give anyone my surname or address or tell them where I work or what I do unless I know and trust them totally as I realise what damage can be done when the wrong person has a little information and a LOT of curiosity.  This curtails friendships, relationships my personal freedom, choices and social life in countless ways. I could be living in 70's Russia where everyone had good reason to be afraid of everyone else, and their freedom was curtailed because of that. The mass publication of personal info puts us all in danger from each other, unless your name is Jane Smith. 
Also as the lady in the letter says [in the example above], its just crazy to instruct us to shred our mail if someone can just get the info from the land registry instead of raiding my dustbin.

back to top of section

back to home page