Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Opt in or opt out?

The Register reports that a public mobile phone directory for the UK will launch on June 18th. It will contain millions of private numbers bought from marketing departments. Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, briefly worked as a consultant on the venture. He left two years ago after it became clear the business plan was dependent on opt-out, rather than an opt-in consent:

"It's a fundamental problem that people may not have expected their number to be used for this purpose when they didn't tick a box on a form for something else."

Davies said the firm's apparent unwillingness to discuss its data sources was also concerning. Connectivity says that each person will have the chance to opt out the first time they are contacted via the directory, but it could take a few weeks!

The Information Commissioner's Office said it was satisfied the system would comply with the law claiming that use of direct marketing data was no different to other companies who use similar contact lists for cold calling. However, Davies said few would have imagined that agreeing to be contacted for marketing purposes might mean their number would be included in a directory usable by anyone.

Perhaps the Information Commissioner could ensure that those opt-out boxes could be just a little bigger and more prominent?

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