« Addicted Britain | Main | Child poverty in Britain »


I expect that most people would take a pretty dim view of such spam

See I'll have to be putting a blocker on incoming emails. ;)

"I expect that most people would take a pretty dim view of such spam."- Deborah

I fear that too many people might be impressed with an email from Ten Downing Street.

It seems to me that if they collected the info under the guise of the PMs office they may be wrong to use this for the Labour party. However this needs to be looked at as many of us will be aware of Associations who obtain other peoples petitions and then put the info on their databases. As far as I am aware if petitions have DPA notices at the bottom they may be breaking the law by passing the info on. This is always worth checking and looking at reporting a Lab association if they are doing it,


I thought of this before I signed up to the EU Referendum petition.

They are sneaky bastards and I'm sure that they will attempt to use the data.

But the information in the hands of No. 10 could also fall into the lap of the Conservative party, should it win the next election...

Simply use disposable Email addresses that disintegrate after 15 minutes

See what I mean editor ?

Tim, are they allowed to use a government tool which logs email addresses to campaign for the Labour party?
How would that look in advance of the argument for ID cards etc?

I'm not suggesting that they'll use the Downing Street signatures for overtly Labour Party propaganda purpose. I know they can't legally do that but we know from government advertising campaigns (typified by Ken Livingstone in London) that the dividing line between Government propaganda and Labour propaganda is not protected as well as it could and should be!

Editor, we must do our own bit of counter-sneakiness. Anyone who has the ability to easily create e-mail addresses (e.g. you receive all mail to a particular domain) can seed the petition database by voting with an e-mail address created especially for Number 10. If that address makes its way to the Labour Party then it shows that the Government has both deliberately aided them and breached data protection laws. If enough people seed the database in this way then there’d be sufficient evidence for a breach to be taken seriously.

I think it is good to show opposition for such ill-thought policies.

I have my own petition against Criminals receiving payment for their alleged enforced drug withdrawal. Disgusting!

Can think of better things to use taxpayer money on than paying criminals compensation for depriving them of an illegal activity!

My petition has been going as long as the road pricing but I think only victims of crime seem to be interested?


Hi Andrew Jones

I am hesitant to respond in this unrelated thread, but sadly the petitions system doesn't allow comments to be added. I've been a victim of violent crime myself (quickly recovered though) so you do have my genuine sympathy, for what it's worth.

However your petition isn't (in my humble view) worded particularly clearly, so it may have trouble on that score. On another level though, despite the best efforts of the Daily Mail and its ilk, I'm not convinced that demonising drug (ab)users is the best way to go about forming policy. I'm not in the field of rehabilitation myself, but I'd think that the priority of the state should be the preservation of life and the rehabilitation of the offender. I'd be brave enough to suggest that these days most people agree with these broad aims, and that the days of 'throw away the key' are gone.

Switching people from heroin to methadone is therefore a good thing, as it reduces the likelihood of users taking something that could kill them. The supply of withdrawal programmes on the state similarly is positive, as it gives users an opportunity to escape their habit, as many of them fervently wish to do.

Whether criminals are getting compensation payments en masse for withheld treatment services is probably something that deserves further investigation (and if it was in The Sun, then it *definately* requires further investigation). But it would be remiss of the state, in my view, to withhold treatment programmes regardless of whether a user is in prison, providing that such a policy is shown to have a good success rate (ie of reducing dependency and associated crime) then it should be applauded.

I think therefore your petition will only attract signatures if you can persuade people that (1) drug users are getting large sums of money that overcompensate for their medically-assessed distress, or (2) treatment programmes don't reduce drug dependency. If you think you can do that, then post it on relevant websites, you may get some takers!

Editor &c. - I signed up to the road pricing one (and a few others) under my real email address, but a few 'counter-' signatures under Valedictoryan's plan, to check exactly what emails are coming in from Government departments (and whether such emails contain NuLab spin rather than impartial reply or not), and if ones come in from NuLabHQ, would be a worthwhile exercise.

As you point out, Labour (Livingstone to the fore) get mixed up with what's right to go in a Labour Party propaganda email, and what's right to go in a "public service message".

Well I'm terribly sorry to read if Ministers are having a little wind stuck up them due to the air of opposition that is blowing over Downing street's petiton system, but they may wish to be reminded that we live (bearly) in a democracy even if 'New Labour' would prefer otherwise, keeping us the masses under thumb, all nicely checked, chipped and ID carded except when required to leech a once in a five year scribble on a ballot paper so as they can pursue there own screwed up ends!, but if this government decides to withdraw this system now because of 'worried' Ministrial concerns it will highlight for all to see what a complete false entity New labour is, even though yes its pretty much earned that badge of honour all by itself anyway!.. , however looking to the future I dearily hope that when Mr Cameron's own dreams are realised he will continue Ten Downing Street's petiton system if not endorse and increase public interaction to our political masters, because for once in a very long time the people can give government its direct opinion rather than the usual case of government repeatly forcing its opinion down the throats of the people!, its about time people power re-emerges as the healthy corner stone of British politics with the clear understanding we are actually the boss and politicians are by definition the people's servants prescisely as it should be, then maybe, just maybe, the people of Britain would reassert its interest in politics before its dustbinned by the masses altogether.. As for New Labour harvesting my email address? well I frankly couldn't give a toss if they wrapped it up and stuck a bow on it, because I can duely delete any rubbish those useless numptys sling my way regardless!

This is always worth checking and looking at reporting a Lab association if they are doing it.

On a broader point, New Labour's attempts at politicising the civil servants in the Government Information Service are legion and well-documented by various authors (see, for example, the very interesting books on the subject by Nicholas Jones. On that basis, I would not be at all surprised if the data were to inadvertantly find its way to Labour campaign managers.

Matt, I was interested to see your post and have looked at your website today - I would like to wish you all the best for your campaign for the Assembly in May. While I have to confess that my knowledge of Welsh politics is limited at best, this led me to wonder - do you think that the Labour administration in Wales have been a similar offender in using government communications for overtly political purposes?

It is worrying indeed Blair's Big Brother Squad have always been a little clever with emails, and there is always more than one 'prat' about. However, I'm glad I have Mozilla Thunderbird.

It's a bit like 18 Doughty Street

Can I have your email address?

One thing you have to bear in mind the site is managed by a Charity not the Government and is a registerd Charity under the Data Protection act

I have declined to sign several petitions as one has to give not just an email address - which can be a specific or temporary one - but full postal address and postcode as well. Such details would make one hostage to fortune to an authoritarian and unscrupulous government. I, for one, do not wish to be on the NuLabour shitlist with the notation "dissident" next to my name.

Unless No10 is logged into your address book all such communiques will be treated as spam and go into the junk mail box.
In any event NuLab would have to clearly label who the sender is and that gives you the perfect opportunity to delete the wretched message un-opened and un-read.
Sending such messages prior to an election would be counter-productive, it would simply remind the recepient why they contacted No10 in the first instance, and further remind them of the malfeasance of this mendacious, nannyish, hectoring, theiving, crooked, corrupt government, which has ruined this country.

If the response you get is "You petitioned us to do X so we are now doing X" isn't that great? If the response is "You petitioned us to do X so the government will do X [provided you vote us back in]" even that isn't bad because it will mean that the petition has worked.

If this swings votes and they don't then deliver X then they've lost the trust of that voter. However, I suspect the greatest risk is that the government and the Labour Party will ignore most of the petitions and will not be in a position to say that they will be doing as the petitioner asked, so any communication on the topic will remind the petitioner that this government specifically has ruled out doing something they wanted and that it might be a good idea to find a party that might do what they wanted.

While I agree that the spectre of Big Brotherish use of the info is unpleasant and should be avoided, in general I take the view that Big Brother might be able to watch you but he mainly doesn't have the time or inclination to pay much attention. I mean, if you can evade detection after absconding from prison, the systems can't really be up to micromanaging the opinions of everyone who has posted a view on a petition.

"Such details would make one hostage to fortune to an authoritarian and unscrupulous government."

I tend to agree with this and have therefore also declined to participate. I am particularly sensitive with regard to any petitions for which a main strand is objecting to increasing State surveillance (which is my objection to the current road pricing proposals, rather than necessarily objecting to road pricing per se). If the Surveillance State comes about, surely the authorities will be interested to know who most objects to it, just so they can keep an eye on those people all the more (the official mind, and authoritarians everywhere, think: they must have something nefarious to hide). I'd be less wary of petitions on other subjects.

This means that the current petition probably understates the opposition.

Angelo says that big brother "mainly doesn't have the time or inclination to pay much attention" - yes, but it's not that all such information will be analysed but that it is there to be used if malignant forces ever decide to try it on (perhaps made easier by future technology). It was the chilling complaint a year or two ago by Sir Ian Blair that he "doesn't even know who is in London at any time" that brought home to me that the only limit to the police's surveillance ambitions is their own inefficiency.

Tim, I just spotted this article and I think that you are right to be concerned about this issue of the government storing email addresses.
I think that the Conservative party and other political parties should be vigilant about the "government" emailing or responding to many of the people who have signed these e-petitions before any type of election including the upcoming one in May.


A quick response from mySociety, who built this system.

We are the data controller for the information submitted, not the government. The terms and conditions on the site make it very clear what the government can do with the information submitted, and we actually look after it on our own servers and send out the mails through our own systems.

We will continue to supply this service to whatever government is in power, so long as we have funding to cover the costs of running it.

In everything we do, such as running WriteToThem.com we take our user's privacy extremely seriously. People write personal and sensitive messages to their politicians through that site, and it is very clearly in our own interests as well as those of our users to run very strict standards of privacy in order to make people trust our site and feel comfotable with using it. We use the same standards of data protection in running the petitions site.

For those people who claim that people have signed up unawares that they might get replies, I am afraid I must disagree strongly. Right under the box where you enter your email box we make it clear that you may get responses:

"Your email will not be published, and is collected only to confirm your account and to keep you informed of response to this petition."

We put it there, not just in the Ts&Cs, and spelt it out clearly so that people would actually read it and be aware of what they were signing up to.

Now, with the officialdum dealth with, can I pose a question as a normal blog commenter: do you believe that a Conservative government would or should use such a system?

all the best,

Tom Steinberg

The comments to this entry are closed.



ConHome on Twitter

    follow me on Twitter

    Conservative blogs

    Today's public spending saving

    New on other blogs

    • Receive our daily email
      Enter your details below:

    • Tracker 2
    • Extreme Tracker