Yesterday I found an email in my in-box, requesting my participation in an online survey. Not entirely unusual and I was about to delete it as spam, when I realised that while the sending email address was one person, the actual person signing the body of the email was an Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Queensland. Intrigued, I replied and asked where they obtained my details.
I found a response to my question in my in-box this afternoon. The Assistant Professor, not the person whose email I had written to, advised that she had purchased a list containing my details from a particular marketing mob, assuring me that they would not be using these details for anything other than this online research.
Hold on - a senior academic is resorting to purchasing an email list from a direct marketing firm? This is their idea of a rigorous survey medium? But it gets better - the Associate Professor claims to be from the Marketing Discipline at the university.
In an age when spammers are being prosecuted (at long last) and the National Privacy Principles apply to both private and public sectors, senior university academics in the marketing discipline are resorting to this long discredited practice of purchasing email lists in order to conduct research?
I then looked into the company which had provided the email list: First Direct Solutions. Guess who they are a division of - Australia Post! I have NEVER knowingly given Australia Post or First Direct Solutions any permission to disseminate my details in that way, let alone sell the damned things! I looked a little closer. The only time that I have ever had any email communication with Australia Post that I can think of, is when I agreed to take part in a Lifestyles Survey. I always look at the small print on those things. I have no recollection of ever seeing anything to suggest that they would use my information for their own money-making schemes. They have a lot of fast explaining to do if they want to avoid a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
The immediate moral of the story appears to be: NEVER have any online communication or contact with either Australia Post or its marketing division, First Direct Solutions.
I have lodged an online complaint with Australia Post. I have also complained to the Chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland.
Stay tuned for further developments.