Resellers' customer data is open to misuse due to legal and technical loopholes, highlighted by the discovery that Software Warehouse's database has suffered a spam attack from rival Insight.
Software Warehouse's database of customers, which are signed up to its free ISP SoftNet, have been targeted by offers from Insight, after the company gained access to data from the service, hosted by Planet Online.
An industry source revealed that the Bennett family, owners of Software Warehouse, had also been targeted in the spam attack.
Julian Bennett, e-commerce manager at Software Warehouse, confirmed the incident: 'Insight has admitted it and we have agreed not to go to court. It would cost too much time and money. Insight has agreed not to do it again. From what I understand, it also did it to some Freeserve members. I can't reveal how the company did it.'
A representative of Planet Online said it was aware of the incident.
'There is a way of seeing email addresses - not from the server here at Planet - but from an outside source. There is a loophole,' he added.
But Marco Potesta, director of e-marketing at Insight, responded: 'Insight's aim is to market to those customers only when they request such marketing.
It may have been possible, through error and/or miscommunication, that one of our past marketing vehicles went to people who did not request it.'
David Atherton, managing director of Dabs Direct, said: 'I'm very shocked.
It's a gross breach of ethics.'
John Woulds, director of operations at the Data Protection Registrar, said: 'This is a legal grey area. There has not been a case like this before and the courts would take a very dim view of it.'
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