OpinionMay 30 2013

Data liberation

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Quite how these pernicious people have received the personal, private phone numbers of households across the country is a mystery to most.

But to the initiated, it is the work of large companies – such as our trusted FTSE100 retailers and large grocery stores – selling lists of names and numbers to call centres.

We call this ‘data liberation’: companies abusing the trust that their unsuspecting consumers put in them. Companies that should be protectors of the loyal consumers who spend their money week by week, year by year, in their stores, little knowing that the details they submit online or for store cards will end up being used by liberation firms or payment protection insurance claims companies.

Consider how many people in the UK own point cards - all that data goes somewhere. Partly it is used to target us at the tills. They have our emails, our home addresses and our mobile numbers. So why would a large company not feel it is okay to sell a list of several hundred thousand customers to a marketing company? If you have not ticked that little box – and sometimes if you have – consumers of condiments fall prey to pensions liberation cold-calling.

And mobile phone penetration in the UK is the highest it has ever been. At the close of 2012, according to Portio Research, penetration reached 130 per cent: there were 83m mobile subscribers. With many people having two or three mobiles, the opportunity is ripe for these claims companies to reach the general public.

It only takes an economic downturn, a tightening of the purse strings, a sense of being poorer, for a high proportion of these mobile phone users to fall to the temptation offered by these liberation companies.

Fifty-five per cent tax? That is still 45 per cent of their money left. Charges? 20 per cent, 30 per cent of the remainder? That is still roughly 25 per cent to 35 per cent left... And with that ‘freed up cash’, consumers can carry on doing what they have always done – go back to the supermarkets that sold their details in the first place – and buy goods.