The Telegraph Investigated Over Vote Conservative Email Scandal

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Many of you may be aware of The Telegraph’s bold endorsement of the Conservative party in the General Election with their front page bearing the headline, “Don’t do something you’ll regret”. What has emerged since is abuse of their email subscribers’ privacy when it was revealed an email had been sent out to their entire email database on the eve of the General Election.

What exactly happened?

In an astonishingly move, the Telegraph newspaper sent an email to its entire email database on the eve of UK’s 2015 General Election urging the recipients, in no uncertain terms, to vote for the Conservative.

The email, was signed by editor Chris Evans and makes clear statements that include “The Daily Telegraph urges its readers to vote Conservative”. He also calls Ed Miliband the “most left-wing Labour leader for a generation” and warns a Labour government would mean an “old-style, ‘government-knows-best’ culture”, while praising the Conservatives’ “open, enterprise-led economic approach that has underpinned our prosperity for nearly 40 years”. Despite the email being signed from Chris Evans, he himself described the action as an “unprecedented step”, fully recognising how drastic the decision was.

What was the reaction?

While many newspapers are known to be biased towards one political party, to use email databases to actively and directly tell the public who to vote for is another matter. As you’d imagine there’s been a public outcry and a number of complaints from those who received the email. Some were not even aware The Telegraph was in possession of their email address, while other recipients had signed up to a specific newsletter, such as the paper’s Tech or Financial newsletters.

Here are some of the reactions on Twitter:

And some of the responses from those who has received the email:

Were any laws broken?

The question of whether The Telegraph broke Data Protection or Electronic Communications laws when they sent this email is now being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office and a decision is expected in several weeks time.

One thing which has emerged, is the paper does appear to be guilty of breaking its own Privacy Policy, which states that while many of their newsletters offer an option to ‘opt-out’ of other types of emails, visitors signing up to newsletters without the opt-out option will not receive emails they have not signed up for. Email newsletters which do not have an opt-out option include Tech and Finance Roundup emails.

Could this set a precedent for the future?

It will be interesting to keep an eye on the ICO’s investigation and what becomes of the situation. Such high profile abuses of email privacy do not come along all the time. It is also difficult to find cases like this on such a large scale. It’s these factors that lead us to believe that the outcome of the investigation may set a precedence of sorts for how we can expect questionable email use to be dealt with in the future. Keep an eye out for this one in the news!

About Rupert Adam

Marketing Manager at Emailcenter, the UK's largest independent ESP.