Monday, 1 June 2009

EU Elections & Hypocritical Privacy Protection Practices

I reluctantly posted my European electoral postal vote today, reluctantly because I considered not voting at all mainly due to a lack of an anonymous voting system, reluctantly because the European Union Parliament is not very democratic, in that unelected and non-accountable members of committees make the laws, not the people to whom I am being asked to vote to represent me as an European Union (EU) Member of Parliament.

Voting choice wise, there is no other option provided other than a postal vote, for whatever reason it is just not possible to vote at a traditional polling station, not in my area anyway.

The postal voting system involves enclosing a traditional ballet form within a pre-paid envelope, on which your full name is pre-printed with a unique ID number, your date of birth and your signature. Once sealed, the envelope must be placed into the public postal system as a “normal” letter, with its contents easily identifiable as a voting ballot (see picture). Should the envelope be lost (or stolen), then the person in possession will have obtained your full name, your date of birth and your approximant area of resident, from which it is child's play to establish your full address, which ironically can be found on the electoral role, which is publicly searchable. The voter also needs to sign the envelope in order for the vote to count, so your signature is part of the package of information, which is more than enough for identity thieves to start cloning your identity and stealing credit in your name.

Aside from the personal identity theft concerns, your political beliefs can also be discovered, assuming you didn’t spoil the ballet paper! Under European Data Protection Directives (laws) an EU citizen’s political beliefs is classed as “Sensitive Information”, the highest form of information classification.  The EU Information Commission would be most upset if a company were to ask or send out such information by public post; however it appears the EU must be above their own laws.

And those volunteers who open and count the ballet envelopes will be privy to your political beliefs, more than likely they will be from the same area and so could know who you are. Hmm I wonder who Mr. Smith at number 24 voted for?  While the bar codes sporting a unique number for each envelope will sure throw fuel on the conspiracy theorists fire, and they wonder why turn outs for EU elections are so low.

In the end I reluctantly posted my vote after reflecting on the millions of people who died to give me the right to vote in Europe during the last century. I concluded it was worth risking my financial identity out of respect to those who risked and lost their lives, fighting for the right for a just, fair and anonymous voting system and a democratic and accountable government system. Whether we are now taking backwards steps in Europe must be up debate, and whether such democratic debate can actually lead to changes in laws..

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