Technology firm in mobile bluetooth ‘permission’ row

Mobile technology company Filter UK has become involved in a dispute over the legality of its Bluecasting system, which sends marketing messages to mobile phones.

Experts claim that Bluecasting breaches the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

In an attempt to defuse the row, Filter has drawn up a draft charter governing Bluecasting and similar uses of WiFi and wireless technologies for marketing purposes. It has shown the charter to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and plans to present it to Ofcom shortly. A legal spokesman for the IPA says he has yet to see the charter, which will need to comply to the existing Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Bluecasting is Filter’s system for sending marketing messages to Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones. In a recent test at six London railway stations, in conjunction with Maiden, about 13,000 consumers downloaded a free sample track from the new Coldplay album.

Filter chief creative officer Alasdair Scott says Bluecasting only communicates with people who have their Bluetooth phones turned on and in “discovery” mode, which means they are indicating their willingness to receive messages. Also, the first message it sends asks consumers if they want to receive an offer: further communications are only sent if there is a positive response.

Direct Marketing Association (UK) head of interactive media Robert Dirskovki says: “Bluetooth is no different to e-mail and SMS and permission must be gained in advance.”

Scott says Filter welcomes clarification on the issue, as “it’s in everyone’s interests to have some kind of regulation”. But, he adds, “it is probably in [the DMA’s] own interest to find something wrong with Bluecasting. I can see why traditional DM agencies would feel threatened by our response rates.”

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