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DPA Query - emails


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We've been having some problems with a former website of our village website, we took over as she was moving abroad and due to the nature of the website (tourism) not having the new site finished we included a link to the wayback machine in case tourists wanted the info from the old site.


We at no point hosted the info ourselves.


We have been getting extremely rude and harassing emails from the lady in question and each time despite the abuse we have responded politely. The first time we replied stating we had not breached any copyright law and this time she's written a long reply saying that she is going to contact every single advertiser on the site and send them our emails.


Now we were writing not as private individuals but as owners of the site and she was the web designer of the old site so would the data protection act apply to our emails as she has stated that she intends to send copies out to everyone in the village.


We have taken the link down (without admitting any form of liability) as we just a peaceful quiet life and we only put it up as an answer to the hundreds of emails asking us for info.


I've hopefully tweaked the .htaccess file to block the whole range if IP addresses from her ISP (in Europe) to prevent her gaining any more access to the site.


She was running the site as a not for profit organisation despite taking £30 per year from each advertiser (at least 15) and then hosting it on a free hosting service so not sure how it wasnt making a profit :( but we aren't taking a penny from anyone we're doing the whole thing for the community and nothing else so I feel deeply hurt that this woman is trying to slur our good names with the local community and if it continues we will have choice but to pull the site and no one will have it :(


So long story short are emails confidential or not in this case?

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They are as much confidential as a letter would be, and just as you would pass round a crank letter received from someone there's nothing much they could do. This does seem to have spiralled out of control - distance does this - but from what you describe she comes across as a sad individual who just can't get it together. I'd treat her future communications with the contempt they deserve, and ignore them.

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Yeah that was my plan but shes already cc'd the parish council in on her replies and dragged them into it and she now plans to contact everyone else and its really upsetting my partner I can ignore it easily have had worse than that done to me in the past but....


I shall put a newsletter together explaining this to the various businesses that advertise and sort it out that way so people know what to expect.


My take is this woman is a control freak and just cant stick it that someone else is running the website/domain. Considering she was claiming it was non-profit making I did wonder about passing her info onto HMRC suggesting that they investigate her finances, it is a little bit catty though ;)


I've just finished the security updates to the site so no one from the country she is in should be able to access it and they will get a custom 403 page when they do.


Oops forgot to say - Thanks for replying

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If she's abroad, there's not much to be done, but then folk will not pay much heed to her either! Shame, you've got to waste your time on this, as you'll probably block access to legitimate users. Why not just give her access? She'll hate that even more! :D

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Well i'll leave it blocked for now not sure how many Frenchies are going to be worrying about visiting our website ;) but once the sites finished and all the locals are happy etc we'll take the blocks off.


Thought what would wind her up even more is we are going to use the site to raise funds for the village - she used to claim that it was non-profit making because she used to pay herself all the money ergo the site didnt make a profit ffs. We intend to use advertising to make some money and of course also add in online donations and then give the money to the parish council to make improvements, for example the childrens play area is about 20 years old and needs replacing so we would give them the money to do that, the village needs public toilets etc so all money raised would be pumped into the village.


Now that would probably stick in her throat if we pulled that off hehehehe.


Im of the opinion that the best way to get back at her is to do things like that, dont you think its like being at school - I dont like this so im gonna tell, I mean ffs complaining to the parish council its crazy

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In general emails are covered by the DPA but I'm not sure that that will help you much.


Firstly DPA only covers personal information and it is unlikely that an email of the sort you describe contains "personal information" within the meaning of the act, and anyway if she is resident abroad she won't be covered by the DPA.


Blocking IP addresses is unlikely to be an effective way of stopping her getting onto the site - it is just too easy to get round.

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There was personal information in the emails such as our private email addresses, home address etc. I am aware that it doesnt cover international borders but she doesnt ;)


As for the IP address issue I am well aware of things like that I dont want to turn this into a willy waving contest but I am an IT engineer with over 10 years experience and my partner is a professional web designer so we do know what we're talking about in that regard.


I am well aware that you can spoof IPs or use a proxy but you have to remember that although thats an easy option for people like myself and you from your post the average schmuck (like this person) is not going to have a clue lets face it if she thinks that posting a link to archive.org is breaking copyright on her old site then do you honestly think she knows what an IP address is let alone get round the block.


I've blocked the whole range of the country in question and just for good measure also blocked the hostname of her ISP and its affiliates too so i'm fairly willing to wager she wont be getting any further than the new welcome page (site split over two directories one that everyone can access and the next that only the non-blocked IPs can).


We'll soon know whether its worked if we either dont hear from her or we get an email saying I keep seeing Site Access Denied in big red letters lol.

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