CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Saturday, 6 October 2007

UK Green Party Sending Spam

I'm all for recycling a few electrons instead of chopping down trees to send communications, but only when I give my explicit permission.

And, as interested as I am in environmental issues, I don't want them in my inbox, when I didn't ask for them and I certainly did not ask for communications from the Green Party in the UK. There's no point: I haven't lived in the UK for over 15 years, so I won't be voting for them, nor for anyone else there.

The first of these emails appeared to be from their Birmingham list, where I was born. Coincidence? Could they have taken old electoral lists and had email addresses recently appended? That isn't even legal, but does seem to "add up" technically with the email address of mine being used and it might explain why I would get selected as a candidate for such a list.

In actual fact, I haven't even been to Birmingham since 1993 and, before you ask, no I do not still have any friends or relatives there, so this is not someone I know hoping to do me (and the planet) a "kindness".

But in order for anyone to be able to add my email address to a list without my explicit permission - however it occurred; deliberately, mistakenly, mischievously - the list(s) they operate must therefore be single opt-in - i.e. allows additions without confirmation from the email address owner.

That is absolutely inexcusable, as it means they are following practices that go against the relevant EU directive and breaks current UK spam law.

The Information Commissioner's Office is the UK's independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information. The ICO has produced a PDF document, entitled Promotion of a Political Party, which clearly states, "Briefly, you cannot send promotional emails to an individual subscriber without their prior consent."

OK, I can buy the fact that the Green Party are a political party, not "internet experts", but this is so clear, it does not require any kind of expert; they, more than most, need to be aware of how this stuff works and use it properly; their domain name was first registered in 1997, so they've had a decade to learn technical stuff; the email rules date back to 2003.

And, if I can easily find this information, so can the Green Party.

Even giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they did not deliberately add my address to their list themselves, not realizing that single opt-in leaves them open to abuse from other parties who may wish to add addresses by mistake or for mischief, is not an acceptable defence.

The rules also say that they need to provide a valid opt-out address. Well, worse yet, last time I received an unwanted email from them, I attempted to remove my email address using the unsubscribe address provided.

As I said, previous emails came from the Birmingham list. Today's appears to be from "internalcommunications" or "members" lists, which I don't remember seeing before. This means either, responding to (unsubscribing from) the Birmingham list worked, but I was already on one or more other of their lists, also without my consent, or that this action removed me from one list and added me to another. Neither option is legal or savoury.

The lists do appear to be the ones being operated by the Green Party (corresponds with the help address on their contact page), so I do not believe that this is a spoof or someone else sending these messages.

Currently, whether deliberately, negligently or by "ignorant accident", right now what I am receiving is spam and the issue needs addressing.

Lets state the obvious here: if some commercial entity sends me spam, I can decide to ignore it. Even if I am stupid enough to buy, probably the worst that can happen is that I will get ripped off. That would be my problem.

But the Green Party want people to vote for them so they can run a country and be responsible for very important things like national security and your life.

Well, I'm sorry that requires knowledge of rules and laws and an attention to detail WAY above that currently being demonstrated.

Apart from not being able to ignore the implications here, why I'm particularly annoyed (read: livid) today, however, is that they seem to be aware.

In the message, appear these words (complete with typos / misspellings):

"Our apologies if you did not wish to receive thsi commmunication."

No, I didn't wish to receive it, but an apology is not enough.

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