Today, I received a link to a worthy enough online human rights petition to a UK government minister by an organisation whose aims I generally support. I was about to sign it, then noticed a small statement just before the ‘Click and Send’ button. It said:
So, in essence, any reversal of a human rights abuse would be nice, but the major aim of the petition is to harvest e-mail addresses of folk who might be persuaded to contribute money, thus keeping this organisation’s staff in a cosy, feel-good job.
What a cheap stunt.
This is hardly the first time I’ve noticed such statements in the small print of petitions on human rights issues. That they appear at all is due to recent data protection law, and suggests that the tactic was being widely used before such legislation was toughened up.
You kind of expect that from unscrupulous companies trying to flog you things. But most of us might expect that major charities and non-profits engaged in nominally good works would have higher standards.
Personally, I don’t. I’ve said for some years now that the charity industry is as ruthless as the business sector or professional political outfits. Executives and marketing staff move freely between the three apparently unconnected sectors, and well paid employment, rather than the public interest, is pretty clearly their main (if not only) concern.
That said, you can tell the ethical standards of such organisations from their way of dealing with this required statement. Good ones have a tick box, and by un-ticking it you tell them not to add you to their mailing list. The best ones also have a tick box, but unless you tick it they cannot contact you again.
This particular one did neither. In order for me to support someone being abused, it tried to blackmail me into agreeing they can harvest my contact details for future projects and, from what I see, just allow their marketing guys to hit targets and retain a job longer.
This is an organisation of which I’ve heard other bad reports about empire building and job preservation. In particular, they have a quaint colonial attitude to groups running well targeted, locally appropriate, campaigns on their own turf rather than leaving it to London professionals to run ‘one size fits all’ PR disasters which mean nothing outside of Hampstead.
So, now I’ve finally blacklisted them. I’m a serious human rights activist, but why would I condone invasion of privacy in order to nominally fight other human rights abuses?
If they’re serious, they could always do what most activists do. Get a job to get the bills paid, then campaign in their spare time in their own back yards.
Small groups of people doing this is the way most serious change happens. In fact, as a famous saying goes, it may be the only way it does.