Prying eyes: Are marketing messages considered an invasion of privacy? – Doha News

Doha News asked people in Qatar about their views on marketing messages sent by companies and any privacy issues they pose.

In a recent Instagram poll, hundreds of clicks poured in Doha News social media, confirming people’s frustration with the daily marketing messages received on their phones.

The excessive amount of messages received by residents raises the question of whether or not there is a breach of privacy.

90% of survey users answered “yes” when asked if they were tired of the amount of marketing text messages they receive from companies.

48% said they receive a maximum of five text messages from different companies in a single day, while 37% said they receive at least 5-10 marketing text messages per day.

An overwhelming percentage flooded the bar to the poll question that read “does it concern you that companies have access to your number, even if you don’t provide it to them?” – of which a total of 93% of users answered “yes”.

This confirms concerns centered on the support of online marketing and unsolicited access to an individual’s private information.

Privacy Breach Issues

Talk to Doha Newsa former telemarketer employee of a well-known company based in Qatar (who chose not to mention the name for privacy reasons) said: “Our company would obtain people’s personal information from Facebook when they like our pages in our account, which in turn would allow us to access their personal details as they were first provided when they registered with Facebook.

Meta has been criticized for its direct role in sharing its users’ personal information with companies in exchange for money, as people’s private information has become an exchange between technology and marketing companies.

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched his congressional inquisition in April 2018 with a public apology for a privacy scandal that angered social media users.

He open his remarks before the Senate Commerce and Justice Committees claiming responsibility for his company’s failure to prevent Cambridge Analytica, a data mining company affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, from extracting personal information of 87 million users in an attempt to meddle in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Zuckerberg was also hesitant to disclose how his platform was used by Actors supported by Russia to influence election results.

The media giant has shared access to user data with other tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify, according to the New York Times.

In 2014, Ooredoo updated its mobile application to make it easier for their customers to have better control over their accounts, by introducing a blocking function. The updated feature allows users to block marketing messages and SMS spam from Ooredoo registered numbers by creating a “block list”.

Despite the telecom giant’s efforts to try to tackle the privacy breach, Ooredoo is still criticized for its ineffective role in protecting the privacy of its customers’ data.

According to an index in 2019, Ranking of digital rights gave Ooredoo an overall score of 5%, which was considered the lowest score among all telecommunications companies. This was due to the fact that it disclosed “less” of policies and practices affecting the freedom of expression and privacy of its users than any of its counterparts in the world.

“While the political and regulatory environment in Qatar discourages companies from making public commitments to human rights, Ooredoo could still be more transparent about core policies affecting freedom of expression and privacy in a number of areas,” the report notes.

The Qatar-based telecommunications company also did not offer a “complaints mechanism” for its users to submit “freedom of speech” and privacy requests. There was also no additional information on how he receives and responds to these grievances, the report adds.

The report clarifies that Ooredoo’s lack of disclosure is likely due to its majority “state-owned” shares as well as “a general lack of transparency in the Qatari legal environment”.

Source: Twitter/ @DigitalRightsPK

Asking about the role of communications companies in the country when it comes to protecting customer data, Hind, a Qatari national, said Doha News: “Why don’t Ooredoo or Vodafone protect the information of their [registered] customers? How easy is it for companies to reach my number and text me every day with marketing offers? »

Qatari Personal Data Laws

In 2016, the Gulf country welcomed a new law to deflect corporate prying eyes.

On November 13, 2016, the Personal Data Protection Act No. 13 of 2016 was passed. Postedand entered into force six months after the date of its publication in the official gazette.

Qatar was the first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country to publish a comprehensive personal data privacy protection law, in 2017.

The law includes provisions relating to the rights of individuals to protect the confidentiality of their personal data.

According to Section 2the legislation only refers to personal data that is electronically processed, or obtained, collected or extracted for the purpose of electronic processing, or where a combination of electronic and traditional processing is used.

The law has prohibited companies from sending direct marketing messages electronically without first obtaining an individual’s consent.

However, this law does not apply to personal data processed by individuals in a private capacity or in a family context, as well as to personal data collected for official surveys and statistics in accordance with Law No. 2 of 2011 on official statistics.

If a company does not respond to the request for deregistration of the receiver, it is in breach of article 22 of the law which states that: “Electronic communication […] must include a valid address for easy access and through which a natural person can send a request to the sender to stop these communications or revoke the consent to send them. »

Data protection law provides for high financial penalties for non-compliance or violation of the legislation. Penalties range from 1,000,000 QR to 5,000,000 QR. However, penalties are only handled through finance, with other forms of penalties, such as imprisonment, not provided for by law.

The lack of institutional efforts to contain the exploitation of personal data is alarming to many and the implied consent given to telecommunications companies when registering a phone number leaves many people helpless.

In 2013 it was reported that very little has been done by relevant government institutions to implement strict regulations to ‘deter’ messages targeting people’s private phones, which are mostly recorded via Ooredoo (then called ‘Qtel’) or Vodafone Qatar.

The effectiveness of laws in protecting people’s privacy is further highlighted as marketing messages are disseminated daily despite the existence of laws prohibiting them.

By the non-consensual sending of these messages, articles 3 and 4 of Law No. 3 of 2016 are violated, the first stipulating: “Every individual has the right to the protection of their personal data which will only be processed within the framework transparency, honesty and respect for human dignity, and acceptable practices in accordance with the provisions hereof.

Article 4 of Law No. 13 of 2016 on the protection of the confidentiality of personal data states: “The data controller shall process personal data only after obtaining the consent of the person, unless the processing of data is necessary to achieve a lawful objective for the data controller or the other recipient of this consent. The data.”

The 2013 article called for a law to regulate such unsolicited messages, but nearly a decade later the law has been implemented with little change in the effectiveness of its purpose.

Lack of institutional accountability

“I think there should be more effort from government entities to implement tougher laws with respective consequences when companies use our personal information and contact details to bombard us with commercials on a daily basis,” Hind said. Doha News.

Telecom companies such as Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar have been blamed by users for the privacy breach, as they are the service providers to whom customers must provide their contact details in order to effectively use their services. Which begs the question, how do companies obtain individuals’ numbers, and proceed to invade their privacy through calls and texts?

As 93% of survey participants noted, the Department of Commerce should do more to monitor commercial outlets and hold them accountable for their methods of obtaining private information about people.

Ultimately, stricter enforcement of current regulations is needed to prevent further invasions of the privacy of citizens and residents.

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