Taking liberties

In houses all across our county, letters from the Council are landing on doormats.  We got ours today.  Well, I say ‘letters’ – what I mean is that the Council are compiling the Electoral Roll again, and writing to every house asking for a list of residents.

Nothing too strange about this – it’s actually a legal requirement that we give them this information.  If we don’t give them our names, we could lose our right not to vote!

You may or may not be aware, however, that for many many years Councils have been selling our details to anybody who asks for them.  Go to the local office, pay your money, and get a list of names and addresses.
This information is also used to verify your age, for the sale of age-related products. (See my earlier post about knives.)

When you get a ‘letter’ addressed to you, personally, containing some ‘special’ offer – and wonder how they got your name, this is where.

When the story that Councils were selling your information hit the papers, Councils put a ‘tick here if you do not want us to sell your details’ box on the form.  Say ‘no’ once, and that was it.

Now to the real point of the post: in today’s letter there was a little note from the Council.  It started with a firm warning not to be ‘duped’ – they don’t want us, the voters, to be tricked.  Kind of them.

The letter then went on to say that they have ‘been instructed’ that we, the voters, need to ‘opt out’ every year! That’s good of them:  you can say ‘yes’ by doing nothing, or you have to constantly repeat yourself ‘no, no, no, no…’

Instructed by who?  Could it be all the businesses that are unable to pester everybody?

I know that after the story hit the papers, a lot of people chose to opt out – people who will probably have forgotten why by now, and who will not make the effort to read the letter.
I guarantee that the list of names that can be sold will be bigger this year, because of human nature.

And the Councils are relying on this.  They know that most people will assume that they have opted out and will remain opted out.

My question is the same one I always ask: why don’t you use an opt in system?
If you did, you wouldn’t have to worry about asking us every time; you wouldn’t have to spend time and money checking every single form.  All you need is a list of those who want you to sell their data.

It would be very easy to manage – how hard is it to photocopy one sheet of A4 paper?

Oh… I’ve just answered my own question, haven’t I?  The reason you don’t go for opt in is because nobody would opt in.  Ask yourself, ask your friends, ask everybody you see: Do you want to allow total strangers to buy your name, address, and age without your permission?

I know I don’t.


On the form, it instructs me that I should save the Council money by replying via Freephone, internet, or text message – if the only ‘change’ is I want to opt out.
Well… I’ve got to write to them, then, haven’t I?  Because I don’t want to make a change.  I want my choice to stay the same.  And the way they’ve written this, I will have the option of telling them to change my choice, but not of telling them to keep it.

No, I’m going to have to write to them, and tell them categorically that they never have, do not, and never will have my permission in any shape or form to even confirm my existence to any third party.  Specifically they must not now, or at any time regardless of what it may say on the electoral roll, sell, give, or in any other way pass on any of my personal data including but not limited to my name, address, age, gender, or ethnicity to any other party for any purpose unless they have my express, written, signed, and legally witnessed permission.
I hereby notify you that said permission will never be granted, and my failure to put a tick in a box on a form does not now, or at any time in the past, present, or future constitute ‘permission’ to pass my personal data on.

I believe that control of my personal information is a basic human right, and that by making it a legal requirement that I give them that information they are taking away some of my freedom.
By selling that information they are selling my freedom.  I no longer have control of my data – I no longer have control of my life.

Isn’t that called slavery?

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