/ Technology

Are you listed on 192.com?

Have you ever googled yourself? Maybe that’s narcissistic, but I prefer the term curious. Your Twitter profile may come up, but your search might also uncover 192.com – a website listing much of your personal data.

Mine did. In fact, take out the social media profiles, and it was the first Google result. And once I clicked on 192.com, it came up with six results for little old me – including addresses, other occupants of the property I lived in, and the year I was on the Electoral Roll – all in a handy spreadsheet.

Granted, not all the results for my name were actually me, but the search tool is flexible, and can be refined, such as by other household occupants or age range.

In fact, 192.com boasts that it gives you a complete profile of any person found on its site. A typical free profile includes ‘full name, current address, age guide, phone number (where available), property prices and even an aerial photo of their house’.

Interested in the other residents of their property, or neighbours? Or how much they paid for their house? Pay for premium content, from as little as 25p per search, and you can find all of this out – and more.

Where did 192.com get your data?

The information comes from various public data sources, including the Electoral Roll, Directory Enquiries and Directors Database. If you wish to opt-out of 192.com publishing your name and address, you can print out an online PDF and send it to the company.

However, this opt-out service gives you only two options – either sending a letter or a fax. Personally, I haven’t faxed something since my work experience days eight years ago – so it doesn’t appear the most user-friendly way. Why can’t you send them an email?

Taking data from the Electoral Roll and using it this way is the business model many marketing companies and online directories (like 192.com) use. And they’re allowed to use it legally. But should the personal data they hold be available quite so freely for anybody to see and buy?

Did you give 192.com your consent?

Take a look at 192.com’s privacy policy and the company will assure you that it’s ‘committed to protecting the privacy of our users’. One way 192.com says it does this is by only using data for ‘which we have your consent’.

But how exactly does it have your consent? I, for one, do not remember giving mine – and I didn’t know it held so many details about me until I started browsing the site in more depth.

Our legal expert Georgina Nelson had this to say about 192.com:

‘The traditional idea of the Yellow Pages – which a few years ago might have provided a person’s name, address and number – seems to have ratcheted up a key or two, and the business model of online directories like 192.com is in providing “value and depth” in data over and above these expectations.

‘Yet, how far will these companies go in their hunt for our personal details? What will they get their hands on in the future? And is there anything to really stop them publishing them online for the world to see?’

Have you heard of 192.com before, and now you know it exists, do you think it’s right that this website is allowed to display your personal data in such detail?

Comments
John Symons says:
20 October 2011

If I have not submitted company details to Yellow Pages there should be no information whatsoever on me in 192.com. If I have, this should be strictly limited to approved details given in the Yellow pages listing itself

I’ve heard of it, it doesn’t have my current address, only the last one I lived at with my partner in my hometown. I guess stuff like that doesn’t worry me as it is public info after all, I wouldn’t have been found by a pensions company if it wasn’t for public info like this, I am now over 5k better off as a result.

What I would like to see made law is data charging. Basically, all the people/societies/governments/councils/estate agents/insurance companies that sell ANY of my data, I want a cut. Is that too much to ask? Why should companies profit off data that isn’t theirs to sell?

Interesting that they get the info from BT, the electoral role and directors database – http://www.192.com/misc/privacy-policy/ – the last time I looked, BT was a private company, how do they get away with selling data like this? or indeed, are local authorities selling this info for a quick buck?

I am however not on google, anywhere, lots of results returned for a recently deceased gay icon though……

So far as I am aware there are two versions of the electoral register, one listing all electors namesand used by the local authorities for elections, referenda, local polls, etc, and one listing only those who have opted to be registered in the public version. The public version is made available by the registration authority to commercial interests [for a charge I presume] and I suppose this is the source of the data in 192.com and other on-line directories. I remember that the annual electoral register canvass in September did explain the two versions of the register and provide an opportunity to electors not to be included in the public version. Presumably the question is put each year but inclusion in the public version probably rolls on indefinitely until the elector revokes their authority to go on the public version. Political parties and election candidates can have copies of the full elections register; it is possible there is some leakage from this source despite the sanctions of the Representation of the Peoples Act. The strange thing is that, despite this massive expansion of data being available in the public domain, you can no longer go down to the council offices or post office and look local people up in the electoral register [eg if you know which road they live in but don’t have their door number, or if you want to communicate with other people in your community]; I think the only search you can make – and that under supervision – is to check to see that your entry is correct.
The TV Licensing database is probably the most comprehensive in the country but how secure is it?

192.com team says:
20 October 2011

Hello Which? Thanks for your interest in our service.

192.com has been used for over a decade by millions of people a month to reunite with family and friends, for tracing family trees and by charities as a people-finding resource.

Our data is sourced from data already in the public domain, namely the Edited Electoral Roll, the Directors Database from Companies House, and the Telephone Directory.

192.com cannot publish this data without consent. This data, typically from the edited register, is consented for use by commercial companies when you register to vote, and you can opt-out of sharing this data on the voter registration form.

You can opt-out of sharing this data at source, or you can opt-out through our website. The reason you cannot email us an opt-out form and must post or fax it, is that we require a signature to say you want your data removed. Under the Data Protection Act, we are required to take care that someone updating their information is actually them, hence the requirement for a physical signature.

192.com is regulated by the Data Protection Act, and we take privacy extremely seriously. We are particularly proud of our track record of reuniting family and friends. Some of our reunion stories can be read here: http://www.192.com/info/peoplereunited/

In 2008, the then Information Commissioner recommended the abolishment of the edited version of the electoral register, arguing that “selling the edited register is an unsatisfactory way for local authorities to treat person information” and that it “sends a particularly poor message to the public that personal information collected for something as vital as participation in the democratic process can be sold to ‘anyone for any purpose’.” I cannot agree more with this conclusion. Unfortunately, government has kicked the issue into the long grass by organising a public consultation to which it never bothered to respond. See http://www.stopjunkmail.org.uk/guide/edited_electoral_register.php for a short history.

Many people don’t quite understand what the edited register is about, and in particular that the list can be bought by anyone and may be used for any purpose – no questions asked. As a result only 40% of people on the electoral roll is opted out of being included on the edited register. That means that 60% of people in this country consent to having their personal details used by anyone for any purpose… Frankly, I think it’s a scandal that the electoral roll is used a commodity (is there any other country where this is the case?) and that our elected representatives aren’t even willing to discuss the issue.

If you want to check if you are marked as opted out, or if you want to get your details removed from the edited register, you can do so by contacting your local elections office. Note, though, that junk mailers and companies such as 192.com (they’re not the only people finding service!) will continue to use previous versions of the edited register on which you were listed.

Phil says:
21 October 2011

The Electoral Roll was always an open document, accessible at the local library, no charge and no questions asked. The only thing that’s changed is that the internet has vastly improved accessibility. I’ve no problem with anyone looking me up on 192.com, I’ve done it myself and there are 8 people with the same name so the best of luck in finding the right one. The information available is nothing compared to what happens in other countries. In Finland for example how much you earn is published openly on line.

@Phil – The reason the electoral roll has always been – and will always be – a public document is because this is a safeguard against potential abuse. Members of the public and political parties can check if all eligible people who have applied to appear on the register have been included; if details are accurate; and if the register does not contain the names of people ineligible to vote. I don’t think anyone objects to this.

However, that the edited version of the electoral roll is nowadays published online and used as a cheap and convenient junk mail database was never intended, nor has it anything to do with administering elections.

If people want to be listed on websites such as 192.com – and I’m sure there are many people who do – someone should perhaps set up a website where people can voluntarily share as much (or little) as they want. Maybe we could call it ‘Facebook’?

Leigh` says:
19 October 2012

Do u think were soft?!? If this was your sole primary objective as a business, re-uniting people (haha) you would be out of business!! get real, transpareny of your accounts would prob suggest, around 1% of your business’s turnover would be related to this! If that!!

I am interested to know how, if anyone can enlighten me, as to why my details appear in some depth on the 192.com website whenI said YES to the opt out literally years ago (and have the print out to prove it). Is this Opt out option not worth the paper it is written on? I just feel that these big information companies are just riding rough shod over the public at large purely for profit……I am very, very concerned.

Anthony says:
1 March 2013

Your service is poor in terms of removing such data, I have had made several requests via forms and no action has ever been taken.

You say you are governed by the data protection act, however you always seem reluctant to comply?

It was 192.com that made me decide to go ex-directory and opt out of having my details available via the electoral role. Sometimes more is less.

* Re Signature Requirement….

My instructing solicitor has no problem accepting my signature on a legal document sent me by post for that purpose, and my thereafter scanning signed document (last page will do) and sending back to him by computer whereupon he can print out at his end on receipt. Likewise particularly where time is of the essence, he emails me documents which I then print out, sign it, scan it (again last page will do) and return it to him by email.

Of course this not apply in every case or situation where sight of original signature is mandatory and particularly where an element of attestation is required, but routine authorisations can be quite adequately given via the computer and by email

I suppose such practice depends on how far the other side or party you’re doing business with is prepared to accommodate your wishes.

minor omission re previous.

A search for myself on 192.com – free search- showed my name against an electoral register entry almost 10 years old and 2 houses ago.
Do 192.com keep old data indefinitely ?
I might have paid to see the data – but you appear to have to register before you can get details of their charges !

Re “Do 192.com keep old data indefinitely?” – Yes, if you were on the edited register in 2002 (when the edited roll was first published) then they will use that particular edition of the roll. By not opting out you give your consent for your personal data to be used for any purpose.

True, I opted out of the edited version of the Electoral Register as soon as became possible – not sure of the start date.
I dont really see anything wrong with making available – for a fee- a collation of all the publicly available data on a person. All the data is already available – in the public domain – just scattered around.

What people have to be aware of is what uses they give permission for when they provide their personal data to any organisation.

Telephone directories have been made almost useless as a large number of people go ex-directory because the data can be used commercially by any company unlike the electoral register.

Laura says:
21 October 2011

I personally find this article very poorly researched; especially the quote from Georgina Nelson ‘the Which legal expert’: ‘Yet, how far will these companies go in their hunt for our personal details?’ – They will purchase data sources made legally available for purchase. ‘What will they get their hands on in the future?’ – presumably anything that is legally available and makes commercial sense to publish. ‘And is there anything to really stop them publishing them online for the world to see?’ – Yes! You taking the time to read and understand what you are consenting to when you sign up for services and update your electoral roll record.

Whilst I agree with the comments above about it being your private data, you have a responsibility to take care of that data. Read the forms you fill in – take the time to read the Electoral Roll forms when they land on your doormat, understand them and consent from an informed point of view.

I am on the Electoral Roll because I choose to be, but I am also registered with the TPS and MPS because I don’t want unsolicited mail or calls. Some people will not want their details online, and that is perfectly understandable. Whilst there might be an argument that there needs to be more education around the issue, this article does nothing to address that, and therefore re-inforces that circle of misunderstanding; a poor, badly researched article Which?.

Hello Laura, thanks for your comment. Here on Which? Conversation, our articles are here to start the debate. The main question is whether you know you’re on 192.com, and if you are, whether you think it’s right that the Electoral Roll is used in this way (whether you’ve opted in or not).

However, included within the Conversation is a link to 192.com’s opt-out page, and at the bottom of the article you’ll find a link to our advice on how to opt-out of the Edited Electoral roll. Here it is again if you missed it:

https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/personal-data-details-marketing-privacy-law/

My alluding to signature requirement above is in response to what 192.com team has said herein.

Mary says:
21 October 2011

I have printed the required exclusion form for 192.com but it is not clear what will be excluded. If I read it correctly, it’s telling me to go ex-directory (via my telephone company) or I will still appear on their site again from future versions of UK telephone info even though I am regisered with TPS. This is not right. If I fill in a form to be excluded from this site, I expect never to appear on it again, just as I tick boxes under ‘Data Protection’ sections when completing forms to be excluded from junk mail. Please WHICH start a campaign to get these companies to stop publishing information on private individuals unless they have signed written permission to do so – in the same way as is required for exclusion.

Phil says:
21 October 2011

A question. Which? sends out personalised junk mail (sorry, marketing material), or it certainly used to, where does/did it get the names and addresses from?

Hello Phil, thanks for the question. The names and addresses come from those people who sign up for our product and services and we then only use that information for marketing when they have given us their permission.

The problem today is everything has a price , privacy included the moment you go online and ask for example an insurance quote and click onto the site you then get a box in small print which says to continue please tick this box which agrees to our terms and conditions. Very few people read it properly and buried in it is usually the condition to submit details to third parties which you can opt out of. However many companies still pass on information the worst in my experience being the insurance and finincial sectors.I many years ago opted out with the mailing preference service and the telephone preference service but this does not stop marketing companies online still passing on information and receiving calls from so called personl accident specialists etc who glean information from the financial sector. It comes to no suprise to me that companies pass this information on as there is no real deterent to stop them

So-called accident specialist still phones me every now and then in respect of a RTA I sustained quite some years ago and long settled by my instructed legal team (in Court, would you believe)…
it seems they’re too thick to comprehend even this simple fact that I told them about and asked
them not to call again…..

Trevor says:
24 October 2011

It’s a question of unintended uses. The electoral roll has always been available to the public but before about 2002 I think it was necessary to visit the locality to inspect it – and I guess few people opted for the edited version while that was the case. You couldn’t easily do a national search for an individual until it was published on the internet by 192.com and other companies of their ilk. And companies couldn’t / didn’t acquire it for “mass marketing” purposes (junk mail etc.).

We’re already seeing info from different databases being merged – electoral roll, telephone directories, director information and so on. How far will this go? how many other databases will be aggregated such that increasingly rich profiles of individuals will be available to anyone prepared to pay for them? Companies value such profiles so that they can target their communications (unsolicited mail and phone calls) more precisely to save costs … fine if people want that but how often do we miss the little “check boxes” we’re supposed to tick if we want to opt out? And what if unscrupulous companies and others use these aggregated / highly detailed profiles for more sinister purposes?

are we really expected to contact every 192.com – type company individually by fax or post to have our data excluded from their database? how do we control matters if the company is offshore and subject to another country’s data protection laws?

I think it’s time for a public debate about how companies are able to obtain and use information on individuals and the laws necessary to safeguard it.

That debate has been blocked by both the previous and present Government. A public consultation on the edited register closed on 23 February 2010, and its response to the consultation was due on 18 May 2010.

Worth noting is that the consultation was the result of the Information Commissioner’s Data Sharing Review. The review was ordered by Government in October 2007 after HM Revenue and Customs ‘lost’ the personal details of 25 million people.

That’s four year ago this month…

Very interesting, I’ve stumbled across this thread because of the very fact that every so often I do a search for my business name (curiosity) and came across it on 192.com, of course I can’t access the information without purchasing credits, but what 192 are saying is that they have financial information about my company !!!!! Can’t see how they can as it is so new that nothing has been submitted as yet. I emailed them to ask to see what info they have about me and was told I needed to purchase the credits, which is a huge con, it they are claiming to have info on me, surely I have a right to know …. anyway I’m off to look at the opt out info from above and hopefully remove myself from their database. Just for the record, I always tick the box on the electoral not to share my info, and I’ve not registered with companies house !!!! …. I bake cakes for gods sake !!!!

george says:
20 November 2011

192, you say you got 8 results so good luck finding you? Not everyone has the same name; I am the only result for my name in the entire directory and find it appalling that it requires a signature for removal and not for consent. It should be the other way around, surely? Furthermore, your track record of no reported problems is a poor excuse for the way you do business; it is not moral to wait for something bad to happen and do something until it does. How well do you think you are protecting those who have been witnesses in crimes? Or perhaps those that have been through the justice system in another way and may be targeted by criminals and ex convicts? You may shrug these situations off as being rare and may well point to your 10 years of experience without such problems but I find it very hard to find comfort in this. Besides, if the purpose of the information is innocent and is for re-uniting and such, surely people would sign up of there own accord and the information would not be misused by those with other intentions?

You can opt out of having your details on 192.com. It is disgraceful that the public has to opt out of so many things, when it would make much more sense to opt in.

How much longer do we have to put up with this nonsense?

Anna says:
1 January 2012

I don’t think people’s personal data should be all over the internet without their consent, period – to coin an American phrase.

I’m in the process of getting my details removed off 192.com. We did opt out of the edited register, but they seem to have used the 2002 register before the opt out came into force. I also noted that something called spokeo I think collates people’s emails and will tell people on which sites they have been used, or some such thing, for a fee. Why are these companies allowed to do this? As far as I’m concerned, people have an inalienable right to privacy, and companies should not be harvesting and collecting data on individuals to sell on to others for Lord knows what purposes. Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spokeo http://www.spokeo.com/

Holly says:
9 January 2012

quote from:http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-01020.pdf

“websites such as 192.com and B4Usearch.com have been able to circumvent this by using old electoral registers to build their databases because these registers were compiled before the law was changed. Much of the information in the old registers compiled before 2002 is of course still current.
The companies are not acting illegally by providing this information but they are exploiting a loophole in the regulations as the information was originally provided by the electors before it was possible to ‘opt out’ of the register which can be sold.”

I believe that this “loophole” has completely undermined the original concept and principle of given choice as to whether you agreed to have your details “sold to anyone for any purpose” or not.
I carefully “opted out” every year , but still found myself and my family’s details on 192.com (and distressingly to date , 4 recently deceased relatives listed with a”click here to see personal data about” …)
When i asked my local council and MP what would happen if i decided that I had lost trust in the current system, and refused to complete the ER in future, I was told that I could face possible prosecution and/or a fine of up to £1000:00.(so in reality there is no choice but to fill in the ER )

The repeated excuse I see from companies who buy and sell sell voters details is that this is”consented for” info, quote: “The data is consented for, on the public record. To remove your listing pls send a CO1 form here:” …actually,I never consented..and I had never any real choice at all.

Perhaps a suggestion to our Government: why not please just stop the sale of a persons details provided by law to local councils,and let the electorate complete the ER to……register to vote?

After all, is the 20 pence*(?) per address we are sold for, all our democratic vote is worth?