Polish government allowed to send SMS-spam

By EDRi · January 28, 2004

According to a recent decision from the Polish Data Protection Authority (Generalny Inspektor Ochrony Danych Osobowych – GIODO) a massive SMS-spamrun from the Polish government was perfectly legal. A governmental agency committed this run in June 2003 as a last-minute reminder to citizens of the upcoming referendum about the European Union.

Of the 30 million Polish inhabitants 58.85% were eligible to vote, and no less than 77.45% of them voted in favour of joining the European Union in the referendum held on 7 and 8 June.

The Bureau for European Integration managed to send all owners of mobile phones in Poland an SMS-message reminding them that they could vote until 20:00 PM. Only the people that had previously opted-out with their operator were excluded.

One of the spammed cell phone owners decided to complain about his telecom operator for this violation of his private data. However, according to the Polish Privacy Authority this spam was not unlawful, since it was not a commercial message. Sending commercial messages towards individuals by means of electronic communication is forbidden since 10 March 2003 under the Polish law concerning the provision of electronic services (adopted on 18 July 2002). Spamming is not forbidden for privacy-reasons, but because it is considered unfair competition. The Bureau for European Integration was allowed to send the SMS-spam because of its legal mission: promote public knowledge about European integration in Poland.

GIODO Decision (10.12.2003 – in Polish)

Homepage of the Polish DPA (in English)

(Contribution by Piotr VaGla Waglowski, Polish legal expert)