The Importance of Data Checking | DMA

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The Importance of Data Checking


The importance of keeping data up-to-date is about to come to the fore once more as the general election looms.

Last time there was an election, stories emerged of mistakes on ballot papers, most notably in the City of Lincoln when a number of voters were issued with duplicate polling cards.

At the time, Tony Kemp, md of DMP and the brains behind online direct mail tool Hello Market, made an offer for every local authority in the country to send him their electoral rolls for a free check for duplications.

Tony’s thinking was that as we were handling complex, sensitive databases all the time, he could help out as it appeared that local authorities may be struggling with basic data hygiene.

Tony was genuinely shocked at the error in Lincolnshire and felt his offer to run free dedupe checks was in everyone's interest to protect our democracy.

Checks for deceased and goneaways could also be done but are chargeable due to licence fees.

Electoral rolls identify people by National Insurance numbers so regardless of how many times they are entered online, there should still only be one unique identifier per person, making deduplication a routine activity. Couple this with full names, addresses and dates of birth and it should be simple to spot double entries.

Hopefully this time around there is greater confidence in data hygiene and there will be no errors as millions of polling cards are issued up and down the country.

The issue does highlight the general point that regular data cleansing – whatever the situation – is vital for the smooth running of business, as well as elections.

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Does data clensing count as 'automatic processing', and therefore would it fall foul of the fact that you have to have subjecets' permission to do it?