Council survey causes privacy concern

18 Feb

[Originally posted on the website of Heather Brooke]

A survey issued by Wiltshire Council has stirred up a privacy debate in the local community, as it asks questions about resident’s sexuality, debt levels and qualifications.

According to the Salisbury Journal, the document has been sent out to 26,500 households across the county “to help the council develop its housing and planning policy” to provide affordable housing in the area.

The council said responses will be anonymous, but campaign group Privacy International has advised people not to fill out the form at all. PI’s Alexander Hanff told the BBC:

Questions about sexual orientation [and] how much money you have in the bank are highly personal questions…They’re asking for far too much data with far too much variants and this is an issue, and a concern, from a privacy perspective.

Oddly, the council’s service director for economy and enterprise said, “all this stuff is actually getting cleansed before we get the data”.
Data cleansing usually involves verifying collected information and discarding any data that is out of date, but it’s unclear what is being done to the surveys. The council also claims they are required by law to ask about sexual orientation, but what law this is they don’t say.

The council expects 6,000 completed surveys, so it will be interesting to see how many are submitted after the concerns raised.

 

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