Pro-Union campaign group Better Together is facing accusations that it has acquired personal information of mobile phone users against their knowledge and is using it in order to promote anti-independence propaganda.
Newsnet Scotland has learned that mobile phone users throughout Scotland have today [Saturday] received unsolicited text messages from the No campaign asking them to text their support for Scotland remaining in the Union.
Some recipients have reacted angrily after the message appeared with their first name and asked if they believed Scotland would be better off by remaining in the UK.
One angry recipient who declined to be named told Newsnet Scotland:
“I received the message just after twelve o’clock and was quite shocked to see they knew my name.
“I showed it to my husband who was not at all pleased. Their poll was clearly biased as they only gave you the option to text if you supported their view, there was no text option if you didn’t agree with them.
“They also want to charge you to text them.”
The recipient’s husband also described the message sent by the pro-Union campaign team as misleading and said it looked as though people were being asked to text if they wanted more information.
He added: “They gave a link for smartphone users which said it would give more info, but then said ‘or text UKOK’ which looked as though it was also just a way to get more info.
“People may have sent a text believing they were getting more info and instead have been logged as backers of No. Worse, they will also have been charged so might have inadvertently helped fund Better Together.”
The link offering smartphone users ‘more info’ takes those who click to a three question poll which offers three options, support for a No vote, support for a Yes vote and support one for don’t know. Small text beneath the poll, warns the participant that they may be contacted by Better Together.
Newsnet Scotland has also discovered that anyone replying to the text message may have unwittingly given their permission for the No campaign, the Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Conservative Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats to process and use their personal data for campaign purposes.
Contacted By Newsnet Scotland for a statement, Better Together Director of Communications, Rob Shorthouse directed us to a blog posted on the campaign website.
However, despite being pressed, Mr Shorthouse has as yet refused to confirm whether Labour MP Alistair Darling, who heads the Better Together campaign, had sanctioned the sending of the unsolicited text message.
According to the Better Together campaign, the text messages were sent out on their behalf by an organisation called informedstore.com. This appears to be a subsidiary organisation of a company named The Data Agency Ltd who are based in South East London.
Better Together has claimed that all recipients of their text message have filled in a form consenting to such communication being sent to them.
On the campaign website it says: “If you have received a text message today it is because you have filled in a form in the past and ticked the option to allow you to be contacted by different companies and organisations.”
However, at least one person who received the text has insisted that they have never filled in any such form.