Wiltshire Council housing survey raises privacy fears

Post in a post box The housing survey is being sent to 26,500 homes

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A privacy campaign group has said a survey by Wiltshire Council which asks residents to share personal details is "bizarre" and "unnecessary".

The £22,000 survey, delivered to 26,500 households, asks questions about issues such as sexuality and level of debt.

Privacy International urged people not to fill in the form and asked the council to "rethink" the plans.

A council spokesman said the survey would help them understand future housing needs in the county.

Privacy International's Alexander Hanff said: "Questions about sexual orientation [and] how much money you have in the bank are highly personal questions.

"I would say that, whereas there may not be any legal issue here, it certainly goes against a number of principles of the Data Protection Act, such as only collecting as much data as you need for a specific purpose.

"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."

Data 'cleansing'

The council's service director for economy and enterprise Alistair Cunningham said any survey responses would be completely anonymous.

"All this stuff is actually cleansed before we get the data but it does allow us to make sure we're planning appropriately," Mr Cunningham explained.

"In terms of levels of debt, Wiltshire housing is the most expensive in the country in relation to income of residents and people who work in Wiltshire.

"We have a problem already and we have to understand the amount of affordable housing that we need to provide, so again that's having the evidence."

With regards to asking about sexual orientation, Mr Cunningham said the council was "required by legislation to do so".

Wiltshire Council said it hoped at least 6,000 completed surveys would be returned.

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