Free Our Data: the blog

A Guardian Technology campaign for free public access to data about the UK and its citizens


Will the Post Office and Ordnance Survey ever agree about house names?

Part of the reason the previous post was late arriving was because I moved house last week. It went successfully, but here’s an annoyance. In the last house, we changed the name (we didn’t like the old one) – notifying the local council, which accepted the name and put it into its records. Clearly, the council notified the Post Office, which accepted the name… except that it changed the ending of the name, which was “House”, to “Cottage”.

Now, in no way was our house a cottage. It was a two-storey semi-detached early 1900s building. Clearly, the misnaming was one of those intentional errors that any database compiler puts in so that it can spot people stealing its data (for there’s no copyright in facts, but there is copyright in fiction, so if you add some false data to a database…)

And now our new home has a name, which differs from the Post Office’s name, which differs too from the OS’s name.

I can understand that they want to have proprietary ownership of their data, but really, this is ridiculous. The upshot is that when we call people to tell them our new address, if they’re an organisation using the Postcode Address File (PAF), they only want the first line of the address and the postcode. But when you tell them the property name and the postcode, there’s a pause while they try to figure out whether you’re right or they’re right.

It’s an annoyance, though it’s indicative too of the absurd lengths that the organisations have to go to in order to “protect” their precious data. At the cost of creating hassle for the rest of us..

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