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While Greek Telephone Company Gives People’s Data to Marketing Companies, in Germany They Hefty Debate About It

I got a phone call this morning. A friendly woman’s voice was informing me that I had won a vacation package by a tour operation “XY-whatever”. When I asked her where did she get my phone number and how comes that I win a vacation package, she told me “it was your phone number that won, and we got it through a CD-Rom by OTE” – the Greek half-privatized telephone company.

I wanted to know more about the whole issue and she connected me to another lady. She wanted to know my name and my telephone number first. Then she would give me more detailed information about my win – several days at a hotel of my preference from a long list they apparently had.

I told her, that she was supposed to have my phone number and that I wouldn’t give her my name before I know what it is all about, the terms and conditions of the whole deal.

Our conversation ended with the lady totally irritated and rather angry because I wouldn’t give her my personal data.

Then I remembered of the case of somebody who was working at a heating oil/utilities company, where they also used  a CD-Rom with telephone numbers. In that particular CD-Rom the phone numbers were listed according to the buildings in the Athens streets. That is if you would type “XY-whatever” Street Number 28, that would happen to be a multi-storey house, all the phone numbers belonging to residents would pop-up on your computer screen. 

Of course, I can assume that all the marketing phone calls we receive by credit card instututes, mobile companies, healthy water filters etc they are working with the same scheme: CD-Rom By the OTE.

But my question is: is the OTE allowed to do that? Is there any Greek law allowing OTE to sell our private information to marketing companies and whoever has an interest to get a view in our data like phone numbers, street numbers etc?

Data Protection Debate in Germany

Currently,  there is a huge debate in Germany about a similar issue: Last month the German government passed a bill that allows government offices to sell people’s private information to marketing companies.

However German politicians went even further: through the bill they allow government registration offices to sell citizens’ private information to marketing firms and other interested companies.

“The legislation was approved last month by the German parliament, the Bundestag, and still has to be approved by the Bundesrat, the legislative body that represents the federal states. It allows citizens’ information filed with local registration offices to be sold to outside companies, though individuals can stop that by specifically requesting that their information be kept private. People living in Germany are required to inform such government offices of their residential locations and are also required to provide their new addresses when they move.”

Any registration office will sell citizens’ data like name, family name, title, address and eventually the date of death.

So far anyone who would know a registered citizens’ name, family name, date and place of birth, could ask the registration office for the address of the citizen against an average fee of 5 euro. Of course, when marketing companies start asking for massive citizens’ data the German state would earn much more: 81 million population x 2.5 euro = 200+ million euro…

Hefty criticism came from every German corner with  data protection rights groups, opposition politicians and even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government engaged in a storm of protests.

Weekly DER SPIEGEL reported that the government most likely is going to change the legislation via parliamentary procedures after the outrage about the bill.

Apart from the data protection issue, critical politicians say further that the measure was whisked through parliament in an undemocratic and backhanded way.

“Legislation Passed During a Football Match

Critics are outraged over how the law was approved, saying it was rammed through by the Bundestag on the evening of June 28 — the same time the German national football team was playing Italy in the semi-finals of the European Football Championships.

The Bundestag was nearly empty on that evening. The few lawmakers who were there took up the issue just six minutes after the kick off, the Bild newspaper reported, and agreed to the measure without a discussion.”

PS and I lost my vacation super deal for stupidly insisting on my data protection 🙁

 

 

 

 
 

 

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17 comments

  1. Once upon a time (ie around early 2000’s I don’t remember), OTE had their Χρυσός Οδηγός published on CD ROM. However I do not think that they publish this any more since CD’s are kind of obsolete.

    My guess is that the company uses this as a stock answer and is running a scam.

  2. Anybody who wants to wade through all the papers regarding the EU position on data protection, here is where you’ll find the most recent proposals:
    http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/data-protection/news/120125_en.htm
    This debate raged a few years ago in the UK and IRL as well, and there is very little you can do about it as things stand. You can ask for an ex-directory number, which in theory should stop these leeches from calling you. But if your number is “public” to start with, and you change it to “ex-directory” (for a fee of course!), it remains on the list provided to marketing companies.
    Other things you can do is check the caller ID of the incoming call. Depending on the phone you have, and especially if you are using a VOIP system, it is possible to block incoming calls from certain numbers. Most call centres would use a prefix like 0841 or 0843 (in the Uk anyway) so you block that prefix and it’s bye bye marketing boys.
    There is a serious opening here for a communications protocols savvy individual to devise a little software package that will allow users to block any numbers they want. Guaranteed winner!
    A friend of mine in the UK got haunted by a marketing company based in Scotland somewhere, and received something ridiculous like 30 calls a day or so. She tried to sue them for invasion of privacy and harrassment and was told she had a very good case, but did she have the time and the money? Her telephone provider could (would?) not block the incoming calls for her, so she resorted to the rather drastic method of the “referee whistle”. She had a proper referee whistle next to the phone, and these things are LOUD. Every time the call centre prefix came up she picked up the phone and blew the whistle as hard as she could into the phone. Less than 48 hours it took, and she hasn’t received a call since.
    You can also politely ask them to remove your number, and they are supposed to do so, but next time around they just pretend to be a different company and you’re back to square one.
    Whatever you do, DON’T EVER GIVE THEM YOUR NAME AND FULL ADDRESS. Apart from the fact that you really don’t know who you are talking to (lawyer, ex-boy/girl friend,..), the next things is a mailbox full of junk mail every day.
    Really the whole thing should just be stopped. If people want to buy stuff, they will (if our government leaves us any money to buy things with of course). This type of harrassment should simply be made illegal.

  3. keeptalkinggreece

    I checked, the tour operator is real.

  4. keeptalkinggreece

    a whistle sounds fine – indeed very fine for every type of telephone harassment lol.
    More than the issue of receiving marketing calls (except for extremes like in your friend’s case) my question is whether trading with people’s data is legal. Apparently it is. I suppose marketing companies have a very strong lobby.

  5. As far as I know you have to specifically opt OUT of the data sharing scam, otherwise you can expect really anything. Don’t know if people like OTE actually give you the option when you sign up. I’m a skype user for years, very reasonable prices and you can indeed block unwanted callers for ever. If they are really bad you can even report them to Skype and their account gets cancelled. Brilliant way to shut up marketers!
    As for the tour operator being real, no doubt. But how free is free? there is always that little clause “terms and conditions apply”…

  6. The tour firm may be real, but the call would have had nothing to do with them. It was a phishing exercise designed to get personal details either for spamming or for access to your accounts. It is rife in the UK.

    I had great fun with someone saying that he was calling from Sky TV and that I was being given special offers and would I give them my password to confirm my identity. I kept asking all sorts of ‘innocent’ questions and never gave him any details. I ended up telling him that he didn’t need my password for any confirmation of identity as he had phoned me so must know who I am. He finally snapped that he couldn’t give me my special offers until I give him my details. My reply was simple. “You can’t give me anything anyway”. “Why not?”, he replied. “Because you aren’t Sky TV”. He rang off instantly and I was never bothered again.

    You had won nothing. There was no holiday deal. You did the right thing and people should be aware that these calls are fraudulent.

  7. keeptalkinggreece

    free was 90 euro for a couple of days, I think. To tell you the truth I didn’t pay much attention. I am the horror of marketers with my consuming habitslol

  8. keeptalkinggreece

    very good, thanks!
    BTW: the second lady was asking for my tel-number. I said: but you have it, you called me. and she answered: our phone centre has it, not me. and so the argument started with lol

  9. Ihad three ex-directory numbers with OTE since 2002 (now I use HOL). They wouldn’t allow me to make one of the numbers visible and the others private so they are all private.

    Nevertheless, I found that they had sold my private numbers to companies, and included them on a CD of calling numbers for commercial use. Greek companies, and especially the public sector, have no respect for law, privacy rights or anything else.

    BTW, when you leave OTE they refuse to stop billing you unless you pay all that they demand. That includes the last bill which has a 2-month advance fee on it, and they do not specify that they will return that fee. Even if they do, it is illegal. I am consulting a lawyer, and have heard that there are many people in this position.

    Since OTE is now supposedly being controlled by Deutsche Telekom as the majority shareholder, you might think that it would be more under control. If anything, it is worse than ever — which gives some indication of how German control of Greece is working.

  10. keeptalkinggreece

    oh come on! the problem is once Germans set a foot here, they perfectly adjust themselves to the Greek reality (SIEMENS,Ferrostaal bribes) lol

  11. Yes, the Germanic morality syndrome goes out of the window as soon as profits are involved. This has been very clear for several decades.

  12. Yes, they have a computerised calling centre that simply dials numbers until someone answers and then the centre connects the call to a real person, who doesn’t know the number dialled. I have had this for years with my three numbers: two were usually answered by an answering machine, which answered and they tried to speak with the answering machine but hadn;t heard the outgoing message, and one was a silent faxline which kept on getting these nuisance calls, but their machine could understand that there was a fax noise and just disconnected.

    Basically, it is a disgrace. The useless Hellenic Data Protection Authority does nothing, other than interfere with legitimate data collection. This is the group of morons (lawyers and judges) that stopped the INterior Ministry from asking questions of immigrants on their application forms. They ruled that the state does not have the right to know the educational level, occupation and average yearly income (etc) of applicants for residence permits. So the Ministry (which had revised its forms on my recommendation) had to throw away its newly printed forms and go back to doing nothing.

    The Greek state is a disaster — mainly because of political parties and useless fucking lawyers, who don’t know law and half of them are corrupt. I don’t see the Troika changing any of this, so they will change nothing for the good. All they will do is collect more money from poorer Greeks.

  13. If you can be bothered, get back at them by wasting their time. ” No, I’ll get the person who lives here” and leave the phone off the hook. Pretent you can’t hear at key times in the conversation ” Hello, hello, … silence.

  14. keeptalkinggreece

    I don’t know whether they can indeed ask such data for residence permit.

  15. keeptalkinggreece

    once I was kept saying “yes…yes… yes…” that was very irritating for the caller. At the end I said “yes… I’m not interested” lol

  16. They still cannot, despite the fact that every other EU country does. Moreover, the residence permit gives the right to work, and the Greek state has the legal right to know the details of everyone who is in the labour market in Greece.

    Basically, this country is run by assholes with a bureaucratic mentality — except when it comes to stealing money and giving jobs to their friends. Then, suddenly, anything and everything is possible.

  17. When in Greece, do as the Greeks do.