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Monday, 16 January 2017

BBC TV Licensing Data Harvesting


In recent months it has become very apparent that TV Licensing has somehow acquired the personal information of thousands of people without a TV licence.

People that have previously received hundreds of TV Licensing threatograms addressed to "The Legal Occupier" have suddenly started to receive them addressed to their actual name, which is both notable and concerning. TV Licensing has no legal right to any information about these people, so where is it coming from? Well, we now have the answer so please read on.

Using the Freedom of Information Act 2000, we asked the BBC to provide information about how it uses third-party data to identify individuals living at unlicensed properties.

The BBC confirmed that it continues to use the commercially available Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF) for updating its address database and identifying unlicensed properties. The PAF does not include the names of individuals living at a particular property, so that didn't explain the recent appearance of personalised threatograms.

The BBC's Rupinder Panesar continued: "I can tell you that TV Licensing also makes use of information supplied by Acxiom, a leading technology and services company specialising in the provision of data. This commercially available information indicates whether an unlicensed address may be occupied and this may include names of individuals."

So there you have it. TV Licensing identifies the occupiers of unlicensed properties by buying data from a market research company. The sort of company that harvests people's personal information when they enter shitty competitions or buy shitty things from unscrupulous retailers.

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10 comments:

Fred Bear said...

This information will enable the BBC to continue to target and harass women in their own homes. As you'll know, Admin, about 70% of prosecutions brought by the non-legally-qualified contractors working for the BBC are against women.

Anonymous said...

So, the legally licensed are now funding the BBC to buy the information of the legally license free?

I'm coming up on three years worth of letters in March. The vast majority are to "The Legal Occupier". If they choose to pay to find out that I've lived here for 20 odd years and start sending them to me by name again, let them.

It won't change the fact I don't need a license and never will.

Dvdquizshow said...

Can you be so kind to tell me if I get caught without a license, will it be both of the house holders or just me? And my wife?

Admin said...

The person prosecuted is the person that makes the mistake of talking to the TV Licensing goon and giving an interview under caution. That's why you should never, ever engage with TV Licensing on the doorstep. Simply close the door and leave them in the cold.

Anonymous said...

The last 3 threatograms I have received have been addressed to the previous occupant of my property. I have 2+ years of letters addressed to the legal occupier. I guess this data harvesting is what has happened. Problem is I should 'return to sender' but I don't want to give any info to the BBC at all.

Fred Bear said...

And the BBC doesn't make it clear that more and more personal information from their TV Licensing database is being processed outside the UK by a Capita subsidiary based in Mumbai, India.

Anonymous said...

Curious stuff. I suspect there could be a data protection issue here. Crapita have acquired, are storing and processing your personal data (your name) which you have never agreed for them to have. Especially as it is being used to harass a legally licence free household. One would also need conformation that the data protection facilities in Mumbai are equivalent to those required by the European Union. I suspect they are not given the number of telephone calls from India saying they are from 'Windows Support' and my PC is chock full of viruses—curious that as there are only Macs here. I suspect BT for this data leak, but never mind, I have recently cancelled my contract with them.

Anyway, if I start receiving threatograms addressed to me personally rather than 'The Legal Occupier' I will challenge Crapita on the data protection issue—like demand they remove my personal details from their data base as I have never given them permission to store and process this information.

Fred Bear said...

The BBC's contractor Capita started to 'offshore' its TV Licensing work to Mumbai around the year 2007. The unions disputed this move so it made the BBC's own news website (go to the BBC site and use search term "TV licensing staff go on strike" to find the article. The Monthly Performance Pack for March 2015 (as revealed recently by WhatDoTheyKnow) shows the extent of the work carried out abroad (see pages 1 and 6 of the Customer Admin Pack).

According to data on page 1, slightly more Customer Admin tasks were carried out offshore than onshore in 2015.
For example in March 2015, onshore tasks were totalled as 1,499,520 and offshore as 1,530,914 tasks. The task categories were listed as:

Written And Email
Cheques
Dealers
Transcription
Licence Issue


The BBC interprets 'customer' in its own way. For the BBC a 'customer' is any adult who lives in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, whether they watch TV or not.

Fred Bear said...

This recent NAO report gives an idea of where Capita carries out its TV Licence work plus other interesting stuff. Note also their difficulty in retaining Field Staff and reduced numbers of code 8s.

https://www.nao.org.uk/report/bbc-tv-licence-fee-collection/

Fred Bear said...

Having read through latest NAO report

https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/BBC-TV-licence-fee-collection.pdf

a little more, the following statement stands out (page 24):

"The main TV Licensing database is structured around addresses rather than customers and the BBC has long thought that a customer-based database would help it target operations, enforcement and marketing activity better by improving access to individuals’ past addresses and payment history."

Note, for the BBC, everyone is a 'customer', including non-TV watchers.