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The leader of Bracknell Forest BC has suggested people who allow their data to be sold to marketing firms could receive council tax cuts.

Paul Bettison told a Conservative party conference fringe meeting that the information from the council's smartcard system could be sold if controls on government databases were loosened.

"If I could use the information on the 45,000 residents who carry cards, I believe I could be the first council in the country to have a zero council tax," Bettison, e-champion of the Local Government Association (LGA), told the Conservative Technology Forum on 2 October.

Such use of the data gathered through the E+ cards, previously known as Edge smartcards, would be voluntary for residents – but for those who did not wish to take part, "it will be £1,400 for a band D", Bettison said.

He added that the data held by the council, such as library books borrowed, indications of income and family, could allow companies to target direct mail with enough accuracy to stop it being annoying, as it would present people with offers that were of genuine interest.

"Targeted junk mail isn't junk mail," he said. "It's welcome if it's relevant to me."

Bettison said the council has received just three expressions of concern about the security of the data collected by the smartcards – but added that people trusted local authorities much more than central government.

"There's nothing more benign than your local council," he said.

He added that he had offered a government minister the use of the E+ system as national identity cards for Bracknell Forest residents, to save money.

"The cost of our card is £4," he said, adding that the high projected cost of the national identity card was due to the interview process.

Following the meeting, Bracknell Forest BC issued a statement saying it had no plans to follow up the idea and that it was careful to abide by the terms of the Data Protection Act.

Vincent Paliczka, director of environmant and leisure, said: "Bracknell Forest Borough Council follows the strict guidelines set out by the Data Protection Act when issuing e+ cards and exactly follows residents' instructions regarding who may have access to the data they provide to us. We have no plans to use private information for commercial benefit.

"For the avoidance of doubt, it would require the explicit permission of significant numbers of individual card holders before we could even consider such a development. If this were to ever materialise, the authority given to us by residents would clearly signify a mutually beneficial arrangement."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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