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Saturday 20 October 2012

Wowcher and motors.co.uk. Is this spam?

Wowcher are a site trying to emulate Groupon, owned by Associated Newspapers, who also own the Daily Mail ("the newspaper that supported Hitler"*). I've never used their site, and I wouldn't bother given their history of dodgy promotions.

Wowcher have a history of questionable advertising (see here and here for example), so it's not exactly something I would sign up for. However, Wowcher conclude the email with something rather misleading.

You are receiving this email because you have used our services in the past.
If you no longer wish to receive these e-mails, you can unsubscribe from this list.

Have I used their services in the past? No. Definitely not. So where did Wowcher get my email address? Simple - it was passed to them by a website called motors.co.uk. How do I know this? Because I use a unique email address for every service I sign up for, making it easy to trace this sort of activity.

Motors.co.uk is part of a company called Manheim.. but they used to belong to the same company that owns the Daily Mail. They make a business out of all sorts of automotive trades. I signed up with them about two-and-a-half years ago. Until now, the only email I have ever received from them has been on-topic, but I haven't actually seen an email of any type for a long time.

So.. it should be a simple job to log into motors.co.uk and check my marketing preferences. Well.. I tried, and the login didn't work. So.. perhaps I forgot my password. That's easy enough to reset.. but there's a catch.

Oh. Sorry, the email address you entered doesn't appear to be in our records. That's kind of odd, because it certainly appeared in their records enough for them to use it for Wowcher.

Now, motors.co.uk have a privacy policy which gives the game away. It says:

By using the Site, you agree that we may disclose your personal information to any company within the Daily Mail and General Trust plc group of companies

So, the Daily Mail group owns Wowcher, and they got the email from motors.co.uk. And quite annoyingly, the motors.co.uk privacy policy in 2010 does also say that they will pass your email address on to the Daily Mail without asking for any further permission. It's annoying, but it does mean that it isn't spam. I guess I will be clicking that "unsubscribe" link then.

* And OK, the Daily Mail may have supported Hitler between the wars. But it was also instrumental in achieving some sort of justice for Stephen Lawrence. So not all bad then.

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