I GOT a phone call on Saturday morning which started me off thinking, and then worrying...

For once I hadn't won a holiday and I wasn't being asked if I'd had an accident in the last three years which wasn't my fault or whether I wanted to claim missold PPI.

No, this one was from a local eletronics repair firm which I had never heard of.

Good morning Mr Fleming, the fellow said. It's about your Dyson vaccum cleaner. You've had it for two years and it's due for service. We can send someone round who will take it to pieces, clean and service it and put it back together as good as new.

Fair enough, you may think. Very enterprising. Congratulations for thinking of a way to keep the cash flowing in tough times.

But hang on, who told him I bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner two years ago? Isn't there supposed to be data protection legislation out there which protects such personal information?

Now, I'm not one of those extreme 'yuman rights' freaks who gets all high and mighty about this sort of stuff, but it is a bit sinister. What other information about me and mine – or you and yours – is being shared out there? And with whom?

Can your local neighbourhood villain tap into this pot of gold simply by paying a finder's fee to some database company? He'll know where you live, where you work, what you've bought in the last few years and pretty much your 'lifestyle'

That way he'll know when your house is likely to be empty and whether it's going to be worth turning over. He will even know if you have a burglar alarm (and what type it is) or a rottweiller to deter unwanted visitors.

He can have that knowledge for every house in every street in any particular postcode area he wants to 'buy'... and a few hours spent browsing could earn him a potential fortune.

Oh, but don't go to the police to complain about it. They will tell you they couldn't possibly divulge any information about this sort of thing – because of data protection legislation!