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Spam puts PayHound in the privacy doghouse

Discloses thousands of email addresses

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Web payment firm PayHound sent out a promotional email last Friday (Sept 7) that revealed the addresses of thousands of recipients to its mailing list.

The message does not specifically infringe any of the terms of the UK start-up's privacy policy, but it flies in the face of accepted Internet standards - particularly for a firm whose business is to act as an online cash wallet, keeping users' details private and secure.

Following up from the original email, PayHound sent two messages trying to recall its first missive to the same group of people (which runs into the thousands). Neither recall message worked properly and possibly served to antagonise people still further.

A spokesman for PayHound said the mail shot revealed the addresses of subscribers' email addresses due to "human error", for which the company apologises.

"This had no impact on our account system and no account details were revealed," he added.

According to Dai Davis, an IT lawyer with law firm Nabarro Nathanson, PayHound has a duty under the Data Protection Act to treat people's data "fairly and reasonably" which it had breached, albeit it accidentally.

Although users could complain the Data Protection Registrar any complaint would be unlikely to come to much because it would be difficult to show damages and because the Act has "no teeth", according to Davis.

The Reg reader who brought the issue to our attention had unsuccessfully tried to sign up to the service through MSN before she received the unwanted email. This encouraged people to win bonuses by signing up friends to the service.

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