Many registered voters have been receiving SMSes from the DA urging them to vote for the party in the upcoming Municipal Elections. The messages are unsolicited and even annoying for some, but could there be something fishy about them?
Like traditional “spam” SMSes, these messages can feel intrusive, but even more so if you’re already a member or supporter of a different political party.
One thing we picked up in these SMSes, is that they don’t have an “Opt Out” or “STOP” option at the end of each one, which is something you’d usually find in communications of this nature and comes handy should you not want to continue being the target of direct marketing.
Added to that is the fact that the SMSes do not include any number or email you can contact to ask where they got your details.
According to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002 (ECTA), recipients of unsolicited communications should be able to opt-out of future communications and have the right to request information on where their contact details were obtained.
Does this then mean the DA is contravening this law?
IEC voters’ roll is DA’s source
The IEC’s Voters’ Roll, which hosts all details of registered voters including your name, ID number and where you’re registered, is where all parties and candidates access your details.
In February, an article in the Daily Maverick pointed out that political parties use these personal details to acquire other data like phone numbers from companies making a living from personal information.
The fact that you are registered as a voter automatically puts you on the Roll, and therefore your details are available to all parties contesting the election.
We also discovered that the only way to be removed from the Voters’ Roll… is to die.
But, is it legal?
Many South Africans may not know this but, unfortunately, the DA’s SMSes are very legal.
According to ICT, Marketing and Privacy and the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) legal expert, John Giles of Michalsons corporate law firm, the DA is in fact complying with the law with regards to its SMSes.
This, according to Giles, is because the law does not require political parties to provide an opt-out as its communications are political and not commercial.
So, you’re basically stuck with the SMSes for the next three weeks or so until the elections have passed.
We contacted DA spokesperson, Phumzile van Damme, for comment, but we’ve received no response to our request by the time of publishing.[Image – CC by 2.0/Chrishna]