Did Wateen buy bloggers’ email / blog addresses to spam them? The privacy debate should include this

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wateen-spam Update: ReallyVirtual’s done even more digging and discussed the matter with the parties involved and updated his original post. He’s asked us to update this post accordingly as well.

Update 2 – the reps from the event insist on semantics saying that technically Wateen was just providing internet and giving away mugs – they weren’t a "sponsor" … semantics I’m afraid, but I’ve got better things to do than try to hold people by a standard of ethics… so I’m just modifying the post to keep everyone off my back.

You know, we really are trying our best to cover positive, hopeful inspiring stories about this industry, but then there’s so many cases of people breaking the law and doing something unethical that it becomes important to point it out.

1355924 So here’s a couple of events that may or may not be coincidence:

  • The Lahore Bloggers Meetup was held on November 23rd, 2008, and sponsored "goodie-bagified" by Wateen. The event organizers collected the email addresses and blog URLs of all the attendees.
  • Since then, a number of bloggers have reported that they’ve been receiving spam comments with Wateen promotions. See exhibit A and B in the images.

Is there any relation between these seemingly isolated incidents? I sincerely hope not.

I dont want to imply any conclusions here – you’re all free to make up your own minds about this. But if it is true this is a serious privacy breach.

I did some digging into Green & White and apparently there have been cases of Spam comments here too, which I’m adding below. (Note: they were taking too much front-page space so I’ve taken it below the break)

The following comment is here and is NOT spam from PASHA (see comments) so could be spam from Wateen.

Anoushey Said:
October 30th, 2008 at 11:47 am

hey folks i want every one of u to come at PASHA ICT Awards.. the Venue is Marriott Karachi and the event date is 31st Oct 08 (tommorow at 8pm).. aur han the important thing is that Wateen which is the Gold Sponsor of the event is offering free Wimax Connectivity throughout the event.. so come n enjoy.. since wateen management is also gong to be there, so u can share ur experience of Wimax with them.. u can get moe details about the event on http://jehanara.wordpress.com/2008/10/30/psha-open-invitation-to-bloggers/

The following comment is here and is definitely Wateen spam

Sehrish Said:
December 12th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Along with other cost-effective and flexible services Wateen offers Broadband internet with new revised tariffs for as low as Rs. 499 a month! Isn’t that cool now we all can enjoy more surfing at extremely reasonable rates with high speed internet up to 1 Mbps just for Rs.799. WiMax –Wireless Freedom from Wateen is spreading like wild fire now. Additionally the big blast is Wateen to Wateen calls FREE for LIFE. How can anyone of us miss that! It’s surely an experience you deserve. And hey if you still don’t have a Wateen connection. Go and get one now!! Wait wait… you can contact them on 111 365 111

The following comment is Spam by Engage HR – and is actually a press-release… on a blog comment!? (Btw this also mentions Wateen)

taniya Said:
November 28th, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Engage HR announced the launch of HR Academy in Pakistan on PSHRM, 2008:

Paul Keijzer, CEO, Engage Human Resources, emphasize their contribution to developing HR in Pakistan. Following this, he announced the launch of HR Academy in Pakistan and its first Advanced Certification Program for HR professionals from January, 2009. He also appreciated the efforts of PSHRM for organizing HR Awards and quite ambitious for the next year’s awards gala. Considering HR is one of the most critical issues that plague internet and telecom-related companies, this is most certainly a step in the right direction. The PSHRM Awards 2008 took place in Karachi on the 25th of November and two telecom companies also won awards: Telenor and Wateen.

Umm… this would have been a good acceptable comment except… oops!

Hira Said:
October 21st, 2008 at 2:38 pm edit

@ Mahmood
Yes, I agree wateen is improving their service. We should consider wateen’s effort towards wimax technology in Pakistan, as it’s a big step. And just in case you really want to get your problem solved, here is a place you simply send in an inquiry “customerservice@wateen.com”
InshahAllah You will be more satisfied

Sunia Said:
October 21st, 2008 at 2:40 pm edit

@ Mahmood
Yes, I agree wateen is improving their service. We should consider wateen’s effort towards wimax technology in Pakistan, as it’s a big step. And just in case you really want to get your problem solved, here is a place you simply send in an inquiry “customerservice@wateen.com”
InshahAllah You will be more satisfied

These comments may just be normal friendly people (I wont quote them below) but the community at gnw started suggesting they had been paid to write positive reviews…. especially considering these two comments were surrounded by 99 others from people facing genuine issues with the Wateen service.

So, what I’d like to know is why cant companies just follow the normal PR route and email press releases to bloggers so that they might cover them – most bloggers are desperately looking to announce new deals by telecos, and it wouldnt hurt for the organizations to follow the rules of the game once in a while too.

Facebook comments:


  • Wateen guyz are permanently marked as spam on my blog!!!

  • Perhaps giving annual awards for spam and improper privacy policies would give needed publicity and encourage personal responsibility. We also need awards for companies leaching off established companies’ brands and websites that steal licensed content.

    There could be categories for private companies, publicly listed companies, individual blogs, government agencies and companies based outside of Pakistan. Both winners and runners up could be announced.

    The awards could be given out as PDF files that can be printed out on paper. Nothing like a fresh dose of shame to wake people up.

    It would give bloggers, TV and print journalists something to inquire about every time they interviewed someone from an offending company. Journalists and bloggers could download a PDF award and present it whenever the opportunity arose.

  • Tech Lahore started a “swine list” on his blog but it hasnt been updated in a long time.

  • @Osama, the comment you mention was neither generated by P@SHA nor was placed at our request. Spamming and privacy are issues we take seriously. It is an area which we will be working with other organisations on to create an awareness and advocate policy.

  • Thanks for the clarification Jehan – appreciate it.

    It’d be great to hear on your blog when you’re working privacy awareness plans – I’m sure a lot of bloggers would want to both give their inputs and help with the disemmination of the message.

  • I will not take this space to talk about the privacy angle as it is already being discussed. I will take the opportunity to convey how disturbing this trend is. As part of the SEO / SEM industry, I feel who ever Wateen has hired or employed to perform popularity building activities does not understand the concept of spam comments. These comments were on seemingly unrelated posts too. I cover the ethical and privacy issues in my Internet Marketing class, but I feel a short cut has become second nature in Pakistan.

    Even SEO is about building trust over a long term, permission marketing and being part of the choice set. If this sort of spamming continues, SEO is going to get the same treatment as car salespersons and insurance agents. I plead to all practitioners, individual or businesses, please keep it legal and ethical.

  • Adnan I think SEO is already considered by many just as annoying car salesmen / insurance agent / telemarketers.

    That was why web2.0 was such a breath of fresh air because it meant (finally) that consumers and brands could participate in a healthy *conversation* about the issues important to the consumer.

    The first step in starting a conversation is relevance, and then to recognize the other person’s point of view. In every interaction (except for 2-3 ) comments where a large company has engaged with the commmenters here they’ve failed to recognize their issues, and it sortof goes downhill from there.

    There are notable exceptions in big media companies though, and especially (obviously) in the smaller companies or startups, who get it enough to engage in a thoughtful conversation with anyone who is criticizing.

    Its like I tell people your critics are your biggest and most loyal fans because they care enough to spend the time highlighting their needs – you really cant get any better market research

  • I also received a comment spam from someone using my own name. That too on a blog post about a peace vigil that had nothing to do with technology, let alone Wateen. Very shady of them.

  • I’ll be even more reluctant filling up forms to join an event. Jehan Ara also posted a blog about privacy at Dawn Lifestyles, and I think we should be raising these issues more.


  • Geez, and I thought this couldn’t happen here! I think many companies have reverted spamming their customers like this: Wateen is the prime example online whereas many Warid/Jazz customers have been complaining about ‘SMS spam’. I am quite cynical about their approach to ‘marketing’ in this sense and believe this will do more bad than good.

  • Wateen record hit broadband market causing Etisalat(PTCL) to rollback its broadband infrastructure from pakistan.

  • Lol – wateen spam in a post about wateen spam.. geez

  • LOL @ Osama’s reply to Analyzer

    anyways, wateen is not the only one who is into these unethical practices. I keep on getting emails from some person who is based in Karachi and have a list of around 500,000 email addresses of Pakistanis collected from internet and yellow pages, etc…

    I am sure there have never been any consent by any user for them and many brand names are in their contact list. But that really needs a separate post on it.

    With the perspective of these Telecom companies, I ask all of you guys, what do you think of receiving SMS Spam by them?

    for example Ufone sms alerts are driving me nuts from some time and I can’t seem to opt out from it (as if I have opted in some where. :|).

    Here is my blog post on it.
    How do you feel about receiving a wrong SMS at a wrong time?

    This also include some local and international research on SMS ethics.

  • well wtevea! by profession i m a software engr.. and mostly i have to talk to my us client with vc and i also does heavy downloading..i have both Wateen and PTCL 1Mbs link..but now i m feeling..That wateen is improving service is much better.Better then PTCL but Only cons is Limit restriction . but no doubt Wateen is now v.improved and v.fast..

  • Dear,

    Greetings from Hi Look Enterprises

    I am just writing this letter to introduce our firm Hi Look Enterprises, working in the field of Interior designing, Engineering, construction, maintenance and installation work in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. We would like your to please provide us chance to work in your esteemed company as sub contractor for any task / assignment. We assure you for the best quality work and progress through our dedicated and professional team of skilled personals.

    Looking forward for the positive response.


    Truly yours,

    Asif Gulzar
    Hi Look Enterprises

  • we really are trying our best to cover positive, hopeful inspiring stories about this industry, but then there’s so many cases of people breaking the law and doing something unethical that it becomes important to point it out.

  • Nice write up…usually I never reply to these thing but this time I will,Thanks for the great info.

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