“From where the FN to my number? “; “Why did I just receive an SMS from Gilles Pennelle, me?” “; “I don’t know where the RN got my number! »… On social networks, many Breton Internet users testify, not without amazement, to having received an SMS from the candidate of the National Rally in the regional elections in Brittany, Gilles Pennelle.
Disgusted. I just received an SMS for the elections of @gilles pennelle. The RN is looking for voices everywhere for the means! I don’t know where they got my number but they can always wait for my vote… rather tired than supporting them !!!
– bzh35 (@ bzh3517) June 16, 2021
After the surprise, everyone asks the same questions: how did the candidate get their number and is this election advertising practice legal?
On Wednesday June 16, an SMS arrived on many Breton phones: “Hello, Gilles Pennelle, RN candidate in the regional elections. Take 2 minutes to hear me defend our beautiful Brittany. STOP 36180 ”. A link accompanies the SMS. It refers to a video of the candidate of three minutes (against two announced), as well as a PDF of the electoral program and the links of Gilles Pennelle’s social networks.
“As the covid-19 has upset the way of campaigning, the SMS makes it possible to target mainly young voters, who represented a large part of the mailings”, explains Jimmy Bourlieux, campaign manager of the frontist candidate, who confirms that “several hundred Thousands ”of text messages were sent between Wednesday and Thursday.
“We are very happy with the service: out of several hundred thousand shipments, we only received about twenty negative feedbacks. If we stick to the second round, we think about reusing the process, because it affects voters ”. According to the campaign manager, 80% of recipients open, on average, the link sent.
Purchase or rental of telephone numbers
Jimmy Bourlieux claims to use a “totally legal way of campaigning.” What is true. The CNIL, the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties, authorizes electoral propaganda in the form of SMS or email. “A candidate or a political party can buy or rent a database of telephone numbers from a private company,” she writes on her site.
In this case, the National Rally turned to the company specializing in “sending electoral voice messages and SMS” Self Contact, which sends, on behalf of the party, SMS. “The recipients ticked a box in the contracts they signed with their telephone operators. Our company is a partner of these different operators and this is how we have access to their numbers. And it only costs customers between 15 and 30 cents per SMS ”, explains Laurent Delwalle, manager of the company, to our colleagues at Street89.
If the practice is legal, it is however very supervised: “Each SMS must contain an unsubscribe link or a STOP SMS type stop message”, continues the CNIL. This is the case with Gilles Pennelle’s SMS.
The party, or the company, must also delete the data of a recipient if the latter requests it directly. “Unsubscribe requests must be processed as soon as possible, and at the latest within one month”, specifies the CNIL.
The Commission recommends nevertheless to the candidates to send “a first telephone message to the people concerned in order to obtain their agreement to be canvassed especially for purposes of political communication”. A recommendation that Camp Pennelle did not follow.
Daniel Cueff will contact the CNIL
If the practice is legal, Daniel Cueff, opponent of Gilles Pennelle, has nevertheless announced to seize the CNIL, as permitted by law, after several of his relatives “received an unsolicited text message from regional candidates calling on them to vote for their list,” he explained in a statement. When contacted, the candidate ensures that he will file a report with the CNIL at the end of the elections.
“For us, this way of proceeding is not very ethical. We are in the process of collecting numerous testimonies ”. Daniel Cueff nevertheless admits that he only heard about text messages from Gilles Pennelle. “It is said that other parties have resorted to the process”, without being able to give proof that this was indeed the case in Brittany.
A practice that is multiplying
“We ourselves were approached Thursday, June 17 by the company Vente Targetée to offer us to organize an SMS campaign,” adds Benjamin Flohic, head of the list of Bretagne Ma Vie, in Morbihan. “They suggested that we target certain municipalities or certain neighborhoods in the region to help us reach strategic areas. We did not follow up, because we do not want to play with the personal data of the Bretons ”.
In 2020, during the municipal, as in 2017, during the presidential election, many candidates – Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon… – had already resorted to electoral propaganda SMS. A practice that should develop in the years to come.
Support a professional editorial staff at the service of Brittany and the Bretons: subscribe from € 1 per month.