/ Shopping, Technology

You have a right to privacy, so use it

Man with zipped mouth

Forget celebs and super injunctions, I’m talking about your right to privacy. None of us have to put up with junk mail and unwanted sales pitches sent to our mobiles – all we have to do is opt-out.

Get a quote for car insurance, buy a TV online or enter a competition – chances are you’ll be asked to peruse a privacy policy. I know, it’s boring and it’s tempting to gloss over all those tick boxes, but without opting out of in-house marketing, you’ll risk getting bombarded with bumf.

What makes this worse is that I don’t earn a penny from having my details passed around major retailers. Retailers that then decide to hit me with ads for anything from grass feed (why? I hate gardening) to personalised number plates.

Someone’s making a mint out of this, otherwise they wouldn’t bother. And it isn’t me.

The law’s on your side

The law’s clear on this, under the Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations, firms must offer you the chance to opt out of in-house marketing and opt in to third party marketing.

If you wantonly ignore these tick boxes and don’t read whether you’re opting in or out, you risk your details being used by the retailer to launch endless missiles at you.

Unscrupulous companies will even go so far as to sell your particulars on to ‘trusted partner companies’ if you don’t scrutinise the privacy policy. By trusted partners, they mean anyone who will pay for your details.

You might question what the actual damage is. Well, consider this; say you live in a particular part of town and use your supermarket loyalty card whenever you go shopping. On that loyalty card is your age (35), that you like a glass of wine and smoke.

The supermarket can then sell your details to a major insurer, immediately pumping up the life insurance premiums for anyone who’s over 35, drinks and smokes in your postcode.

No such thing as a free ride

You get nothing for free. So check those privacy policies – the savings you make by opting out could prove far more than a discount voucher for your next box of cornflakes. Commenter Henry agrees, replying to Ben Steven’s Conversation on whether it’s mad to trade your data for an online discount:

‘Perhaps with the exception of your sex life, [personal data] is your most precious commodity. Don’t give/trade it away. Just look around you; how many industries have either sprouted or grown since they have started demanding more and more personal data to do anything online.’

If you’re savvy you can search for companies that will pay you for your information, meaning you’ll get marketing on products you’re interested in, rather than what the commercial manager at some company wants to flog that week. Sounds like a plan to me, what do you think?

pickle says:
4 June 2011

All this is very true – It’s easy enough to opt out of e-mail advertising, but difficult to stop unwanted phone calls. I am signed up to the telephone preference system, but still get ‘unavailable’ calls – usually just when I am sitting down for a meal. As for junk mail – that goes into the recycling box – hopefully they will get tired of mailing me!

jUNK MAIL – I sometimes parcel it up, put in their return envelope and sent it back saying “You`re bin, not mine”. so they have to deal with the cost and inconvenience for the of disposal.

Cold calling phone calls – we have opted out of receiving these, but after having a BT line fault, another line was fitted to the house for testing, within 20 minutes of it being activated (whilst we were still waiting for an engineer callback with our new number) we received a cold call trying to sell us something!
Hard for the customer to do anything when the company providing the service (BT) are charging for stopping cold calls, when it is clearly the company who are selling details on for companies to cold call!
Leaflet advertising – in our area a company called RDC leaflet distribution operate, they are advertising to businesses that they have access to thousands of homes in our area.
Despite having signs up saying no junk mail, they completely ignore it and post catalogues, flyers, leaflets through the doors on our street with scant regard for any residents, two to three times per week.
When I rang their office and complained to a manager she just laughed at my requests to stop and basically said “tough!” then she put the phone down.
They even offer (for a fee) a leaflet drop based on local demographics!

I shop with cash only, if a company “need your postcode for their system” then i leave the shop and go elsewhere, i dont use any form of loyalty card exactly for the reasons you list, demographically pricing against the public.

In the past, shops/stores didnt have information about our shopping habits, there weapon to lure us in was price and they battled for every sale, now they all share the same information so can sit back as the customer runs around like a headless chicken paying matching prices at rival businesses up and down the land.

The best shopping advice anyone could have, is give businesses absolutely no information about you/your shopping habits, what so ever!

Just Me says:
20 January 2012

Five steps to playing the junk-mail companies and the cold callers at their own game:

1) TPS Telephone Preference Service, your first step to stopping cold calling.

2) Caller ID, if your telephone says ‘Unknown’, don’t answer.

3) MPS Mail Preference Service, your first step to cutting back most of the junk mail.

4) Royal Mail Opt-Out Service – This stops all the ‘To The House Owner’ and other unaddressed junk mail. However, you must reapply to this after the first six months and again ever two years. I should also note it is very difficult to get the Royal Mail to send you one of these Opt-Out forms, but if you persist it is worth it.

5) Put all your unsolicited junk mail back into the letter box. The company who sent it will be charged a return cost, and where their is no return address, the company will be charged by the Royal Mail for recycling.

Love this option from a competition:

Can we call you?
Occasionally we may allow selected clients to tell you about their products and services. Only tick this box if you do not wish to receive them. Want more info?

So is it Yes I do not wish to receive them or Yes I want more info?

Tiz I says:
17 July 2015

I receive dozens of emails every week into my email junk folder for gambling, credit cards, funeral arrangements, banks etc.
Most of them are sourced in the US.
I know it is sad but I religiously go through them and unsubscribe to each of them.
Despite all my time and efforts the same ones keep coming back.
I believe that by ticking the “unsubscribe” box and giving your email address only confirms that the address is live.

I just tried to register the purchase of a toaster with Russel Hobbs who offer an extra year guarantee, along with an entry into a £10,000 draw. However, their online form asks for email address, and both mobile and landline telephone numbers. The online form also requires full date of birth. Not filling in any of these details, paticularly the landline telephone No. is not accepted. The house phone number is private, and is not here for retailers or scammers to pester me. My toaster will remain unregistered.

Have you tried registering it through Register my Appliance on the amdea website? All you should need to do in general is give an essential contact detail. An email or a phone number is all that should be necessary with no personal details. Did the guarantee card not allow this? Or was it a condition of extending the guarantee to 2 years that required additional information?

Two or three years ago I started to register a Russell Hobbs kettle online to extend the guarantee by a year and stopped when I was faced with a bunch of questions, including one about my annual income. I phoned the company and said that I wanted to register the kettle but not provide more information than necessary, and that they must not use it for marketing purposes or pass it to other organisations.

Earlier this year I bought a second RH kettle (same model) and phoned to register it. They did not ask for more information than necessary and as usual I insisted that they must not use my contact details for marketing.

I do not see why it should be necessary to register a product to qualify for a ‘free’ extended warranty.

Malcolm has mentioned Amdea , the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances, a trade body that represents a substantial number of well known companies, though Russell Hobbs is not listed. At present they have a competition, so registering could win you a prize. Maybe the consolation prize is that your contact details could be passed on or sold. 🙁

This is an old topic, but it’s now no longer valid. In the UK we have no right to privacy since the enacting of the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’. The recently passed bill removes any right to privacy over all electronic communications and gives the 39 or so Government departments that now have free access to all your browsing history not only unprecedented rights but the law now allows them to lie in court.


So where do we go from here?