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Rights and wrongs

Measures designed to prevent the abuse of personal information are not working

For all the wrong reasons, the issue of human rights legislation is firmly in the spotlight once again.

The repercussions of this legislation add to the continued breakdown of law and order in this country. Quite how the miscreants who have flaunted and abused the system can be dealt with seems to be one of the great imponderables of the moment, given the way the legislation stands and the mess that needs to be unravelled.

It seems that criminals are afforded absolute protection under the system while law-abiding citizens appear to be left with absolutely no rights whatsoever.

This area is but one aspect of the plethora of legislation and bureaucracy that runs through our everyday lives but surely an individual has a right to privacy? Sadly, despite all the measures that have been implemented, the rights of the individual are being undermined and common sense dictates that, where events have become so out of hand, then some radical thinking is necessary.

In the world of investment, we have just seen one of the more worrying cases of an abuse of information that is all too readily available by using the share register, with the targeting of GlaxoSmithKline shareholders by animal rights activists.

Everyone living in a democracy has a right to free speech but the activities of some people on the fringes of this movement go beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour and, in so doing, they must realise that their actions do nothing to gain support for their cause.

Those who have chosen to hold GSK shares should not have to endure such intimidation as is taking place at present, nor should they have to seek the protection of a nominee facility just because of the action of a few.

The whole point at issue is that an individual’s information should not be so readily available to those who do not need or, indeed, have any right of access to these shareholder records.

While clearly on a different level, there is another nuisance element which also involves the misuse of share registers. I am referring to the vast amounts of junk mail emanating particularly from certain venture capital trust providers, direct marketers and, to some extent, the compensation claim-chasers. The spewing out of such junk material is unnecessary and adds to the issue of identity theft where the material is not carefully disposed of.

The telemarketers also seem to be unstoppable, even when a telephone number is ex-directory or registered with the Telephone Preference Service. On one occasion when I telephoned a client, I nearly received a verbal lashing as it turned out I was the eighth caller that day but only the first who was not conducting a survey, selling double glazing or offering a prize.

By all the evidence, the so-called checks and balances designed to prevent such abuse are not working and legislation that has obviously failed must clearly be revisited.

The last thing we need is yet more reams of legislation. On the contrary, we should be encouraging the removal of great swathes of it, allowing greater freedoms to get on with life and deal with matters that are of greater importance.

On the basis that prevention is better than cure, would it not be much better to look at procedural issues so that potential abuses are prevented at an early stage rather than having to unravel a mess later?

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