Friday, 23 November 2007

Mistake or malice?

Wednesday, I got yet another spam email message from the Green Party's "paid up members' list". How do I know what the list is? Because their Jim Killock said so, when he responded to a previous post. I'd know if I was a paid up member of any organization, or not. And I'm not. Obviously.

Their lists right now operate under Unconfirmed Opt-In, which is Spam. See: Mailing Lists -vs- Spam Lists. Both Opt in e-mail and Confirmed Opt-In Subscription Process are useful topics to study in this regard too.

Killock acknowledged that some sort of error had been made, but failed entirely to see the implications: that the error resulted in them breaking the law, as he also failed to do anything to fix it or remove my address from their lists. Both those actions / realizations are obligatory.

In that post, you will remember that I explained how I started getting messages "coincidentally" from that "members" list, shortly after I had attempted to unsubscribe myself from their Birmingham list.

Whilst I didn't attempt to unsubscribe again (for that very reason) and despite the pending complaint sent to the Information Commissioner's Office, yesterday, I wrote to the Green Party office once more to point out the error in their ways and to request immediate removal from their lists.

I sent my email at 11:12 a.m. and, so far, have received no response.

However, by "yet another amazing coincidence", at 1:05 p.m. Thursday, I got a welcome message to YET ANOTHER Green Party mailing list - this time, the list for the West Midlands. And, just a few hours later, I got another spam email sent to me, via this latest list. Incredible, no?

How is it that every time I contact them, I end up on another list?

Maybe it's possible that someone, who has an email address very similar to mine, in the West Midlands, is a paid up member of the Green Party.

Maybe that member keeps complaining that they do not receive emails and, as a result, the erroneous (my) email address, therefore, keeps being added to yet another list in some haphazard attempt to "get through".

Maybe that member gave the wrong (my) email address and it keeps being copied again without question? I'm just guessing, trying to come up with some reasonable explanation, because the other one is that someone deliberately adds my address for mischievous or more sinister reasons.

Even if those might only have been "innocent" mistakes, they are being compounded through ignorance and complete failure - now wilful, since I did point it out earlier - to investigate or attend to the details.

If, however, as they should, the Green Party had list management systems in place that required confirmation from the individual email address owner BEFORE any email address could be added to the list, preventing such errors from happening and meaning messages could only be sent to confirmed recipients, they would not keep sending me messages illegally that I did not ask for and did not give my prior consent for.

Their system, as it stands, actually allows them to break the law.

That alone is inexcusable and there stoppeth the buck.

It's the Green Party's responsibility to ensure that their systems work within the law and, there's no choice or "room for error" in that requirement as ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law does not excuse.)

It doesn't matter that the system in question is a standard system made available free by their web host. Just because it's there, does not mean you have to use it, or even that it is suitable for any particular purpose. As far as I can see, it isn't fit for any today, because it does not appear to offer the possibility to require "Confirmed Opt-in" or "Verified Opt-in".

In the USA, under the CAN-SPAM act, its use might not be automatically illegal, depending on a wide variety of circumstances and, always providing that no UK and European subscribers get on your lists.

That same system, however, technically, does not provide a means to comply with the requirements of the rules of the relevant EU Directive and current UK law. It is not even suitable for mere internal communications in Britain and Europe, when "innocent" members of the public can - and, obviously DO - end up on those lists, "in error."

I've pretty much spelt out what's required here, which is more than they deserve as I doubt there are many people who get repeatedly spammed, "kind enough" to provide free consulting to the spammer.

Mailman is not suitable. The entire system needs to be changed and, right now, before the election rush and my nervous breakdown might be a good time.

Nothing I do seems to get me off their lists and, as I've said, every time I try, I just end up on another one and get yet more messages.

The only alternative I appear to have, if they persist in ignoring this problem and failing, not only to remove my email address from their lists immediately, but also to fix the system so that it cannot be added back again in the future, would be to abandon the affected email address. [1]

That would mean the loss of all my prior email correspondence - 1,475 MB of it - not to mention changing my address in associated accounts.

That would cost me dearly in terms of lost time (and time is money).

Dealing with the spam and the complaint is already doing so, but if I must, I'll report this to every competent authority, spam block and media outlet to ensure that a) I do not suffer greater loss and b) other UK citizens do not suffer personal loss due to their incompetence, because, whilst it is a nuisance to me personally, the implications are far greater:

There's a huge difference between not knowing how to legally run an email list to promote a political party and, ensuring the security of sensitive, personal data and banking details at the Revenue, but in my opinion, failing to even understand the first, does indicate that the latter might be a bit of a challenge that could easily lead to grave mistakes.

These days, when citizens have to file tax returns or other information online and where all public records are kept electronically, understanding technology fully and properly has become essential for all politicians of all flavours.

They simply cannot serve the public without doing so.

And I do mean each and every one of them, because if they don't know what's required, by law and how to achieve it, technically, you can't even be sure that those they delegate tasks to will carry them out correctly.

And, I'll reiterate that I base my opinions on my experience as as a former accountant whose speciality was in setting up computerized systems and controls. The Green Party's, currently, are not just woefully inadequate, they appear to be completely undetectable. OK, so that may not be any worse than anyone else's, but that's definitely no excuse either!

[1] In the end, I did have to abandon the email address, with all of the costs and inconveniences that implied to myself.

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