Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Worst Street bends
rules to send Daily Dross “for our own benefit”

Until the middle of last week, the Boston Borough Beano – aka Worst Street’s Daily Bulletin – contented itself with a pathetic begging for readers.
It pleaded: “Boston Bulletin DAILY is FREE Monday to Friday. Spread the word. Tell your relatives, friends and neighbours to email so they can get their own personal copy.”
They say that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and nor is there such a thing as a free bulletin. Worst Street would have us believe that the production cost is £11.06 a day –£2,867.60 a year, which made us laugh with delight at their naiveté.
A few months ago the bulletin was sent to a meagre 784 subscribers, but last week came the boast: “Join the thousands who now get the Bulletin every day – email … to subscribe.”
So how has this miracle been wrought?
The answer is by a method that could politely be described as underhand.
If you were among the thousands of people forced to pay to have your garden waste collected – something that the council repeatedly promised would never happen – you had to provide an e-mail address if you applied online ... with a promise
from Worst Street that: “Your personal contact details … will be used … to contact you should we need to obtain further information … about your application and to notify you of the action we are taking following your application.
“Boston Borough Council may also use your information for other purposes such as to prevent fraud. All personal information will be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 …”
Notwithstanding that “promise,” in March we received an unsolicited email copy of the Beano "welcoming" us as a new reader, and announcing: “You are receiving this because you signed up for the council kerbside garden waste collection service and we want to keep you informed about your council and news from the borough.”
So we complained of a breach of duty under the Data Protection Act.
The complaint was rejected.
Worst Street confirmed: “… you can only carry out unsolicited electronic marketing if the person you’re targeting has given you their permission …
“However, there is an exception to this rule. Known as the “soft opt-in,” it applies … where you’ve obtained a person’s details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service; where the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages.
“Given a clear unsubscribe option in the emails, and this was used by many people, we deemed this strategy both legal and an opportune way to engage with the local community.
“This position is further supported in that organisations can re-use personal information for purposes other than what collected for where that purpose may be beneficial to the individual.
“Although a subjective view – it was the decision of the Garden Waste Project implementation team … early on in the project that the bulletin was not considered ‘marketing;’ rather a mechanism to inform residents … about opportunities, events, and other council related activities to benefit the community. It also includes updates relating to the garden waste service so is useful information for those who have signed up to the service.”
It wouldn’t be so bad if that was the case.
But as we have said many times before, the Bulletin often carries irrelevant items which are nothing to do with the council, and which are frequently out of date having appeared elsewhere.
So what we are left with is a feeble effort to create an apparent success story to shore up a hapless and hopeless piece of daily dross and buff up its tarnished image.