Leeds: Council sells your data for £30k

Leeds City Council claims it is legally obliged to sell electoral data.
Leeds City Council claims it is legally obliged to sell electoral data.

Leeds City Council has made more than £30,000 selling  data about voters over the past six years.

An investigation by the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed the authority sold data from the electoral register to credit reference agencies, political parties and even a music festival between 2012 and 2018.

When added to West Yorkshire’s other four authorities (Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale), more than £145,558.70 was made from selling data during the six-year period.

The law states that a list of electors – known as the open register – should be supplied to anyone willing to pay a fee, while some are allowed access to the more in-depth list, known as the “full register”.

Among Leeds City Council’s customers were credit ratings agencies (CRAs) – with Crediva, Callcredit, Equifax and Experian splashing out around £6,600 each during that period.

One of the agencies, Callcredit (now known as TransUnion), explained that electoral register data can be used

A statement from the company said: “CRAs hold personal data that can be used to identify people, like their name, date of birth, and current and previous addresses. One source of data that helps us in generating and checking this information is the electoral register.

“Our clients, such as banks and building societies, can then use the data to help fight identity fraud and confirm a person is who they say they are.

“For the majority of lenders, confirming an individual’s identity is crucial to ensuring that an application for credit is not fraudulent.

“The electoral register provides valuable proof of your address to lenders and is a key piece of ID verification. It is also a key piece of data used when generating your credit score.”

Constituency political parties, including UKIP, Labour and the Green Party also spent money on marked registers – these show which people have voted in elections.

Another customer was Festival Republic – the company that runs the Leeds Festival. It obtained register data for areas of Farnley, Wortley, Bramham, Barwick-in-Elmet, Thorner and Aberford.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has contacted Festival Republic for a comment.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “As part of UK regulations, specified organisations (such as government departments and credit reference agencies) are entitled to a copy of the full register on payment of the relevant prescribed fee.

“However the edited electoral register can be provided to anyone who approaches the council and requests it on payment of a prescribed fee – this has only happened eight times over the last six years and we made less than £70 a year.

“It is key to note though that anyone can opt out of the edited register at any time by visiting www.leeds.gov.uk/elections.

“We take the processing of personal data extremely seriously, and therefore we ensure that the collection, handling and supply of data complies with electoral legislation and with the principles of processing personal data, ensuring it is done so lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner.

“We keep a list of all those organisations and individuals to whom copies of the register are supplied, which is made publicly available.

“The full cost of compiling and maintaining the register of electors far outweighs any money we receive from the sales of the electoral role, and any money we do make goes straight back into paying for the running costs of registration.”

BACKGROUND

Registration officers keep two registers – the electoral register and the open register (also known as the edited register).

The electoral register lists the names and addresses of everyone who is registered to vote in public elections. The register is used for electoral purposes, such as making sure only eligible people can vote.

It can also be used for a few other purposes specified in law, such as detecting crime, calling people for jury service or checking credit applications.

The open register can be bought by any person, company or organisation.

Your name and address will be included in the open register unless you ask for them to be removed. Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote.