Local councils have sold the personal information of individuals to more than 2,700 private companies – including lobbyists, estate agents and fast food outlets – according to new figures.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information act found at least 307 local councils sold details from the edited electoral register – comprising names and addresses of thousands of voters that have not chosen to opt out– to private firms in transactions worth more than £250,000. Companies that bought the data include the estate agent Foxtons, the lobby group Bell Pottinger and Coast Insurance.
The research, by the campaigning group Big Brother Watch, comes amid growing concern many companies are “abusing” the register for marketing and publicity purposes in moves that have exacerbated junk mail and assist cold-calling. At least 2,742 sales of the edited register were made between 2007 and 2012 at a cost of £265,161.21, the study found.
Big Brother Watch’s director, Nick Pickles, said: “The edited register is a waste of council time, undermines trust in the electoral system and contributes to huge volumes of junk mail. It should be abolished.”