Councils sell details of electoral roll to marketing companies

Personal details of Wakefield residents are being sold to marketing companies by Wakefield council. The issue, which involves authorities across the country, was highlighted on BBC’s Watchdog programme this week.

Since 2002 it has been possible to opt out of the council selling on electoral information, but the programme revealed that only 40 per cent of people do this. This means the details of 27 million people nationally are available to buy. The Ministry of Justice told the programme the electoral roll had always been publicly available and that the way it was being sold complied with all data protection and human rights legislation.

Wakefield Council was among the few local authorities which responded to a request for information made by the programme’s makers under the Freedom of Information Act. The council confirmed that its edited version of the electoral register had been sold to five mailing companies in 2006-7 and said prices charged for the information of £5 per 1,000 electors for paper copies and £1.50 for data copies, were set by law.

A council spokesman said the local authority has two versions of the electoral register – one which includes all registered electors and is used only by the council, and the edited version which is available for sale. He said people can opt out of the edited version of the electoral register, and that the choice was made clear on the electoral register forms which go out every year.

Electoral roll for sale (Wakefield Express, 11 January 2008)