I was on Your and Yours today to talk about the open electoral register:
One of the things the programme had found is that local councils in Northern Ireland use a much more accurate description of how the open register it used than councils in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland they tell people that the data may be used for any purpose and that the data may be used by any company, including junk mail companies. In England, Wales and Scotland all these details are omitted. I wrote about this when the blurbs used in England, Wales and Scotland were changed in 2014.
I was hoping to make the point that the fairest way to explain to voters how the open register is used would be to state that the data may be bought by any person or company and that it may be used for any purpose. The form could then ask voters the simple question:
Would you like to give your consent to your personal details being processed in this manner – Yes or No?
It would avoid mentioning specific examples of how the data is used (which is somewhat pointless as the data may be used for any purpose) and it would force people to make a decision. As the interview with the You and Yours listener illustrates, at the moment people aren't quite sure what the open register is and they're therefore likely to go with the default option (that is, being opted in).
Another thing I wanted to mention is that you can opt out at any time – you don't have to wait until the next annual canvas. You can find the contact details of your local elections office by going to aboutmyvote.co.uk – there's a big search box on the home page. If you then send an e-mail to your elections office stating that you would like to opt out of being on the open register they will update your record straight away and send you a confirmation letter.