Avoiding Bluetooth Spam

You might have noticed a story in today’s Irish Independent about the increased use of “mobile marketing via bluetooth”. Paring away the advertising speak, this is simply Bluetooth spam – an unsolicited message sent to your mobile. Email and SMS spam is prohibited by Irish law and if anything, the immediate and intrusive nature of Bluetooth spam makes it even worse. As one marketer points out:

The very intimate and personal relationship between a consumer and their mobile device makes marketing to them a very sensitive issue. When someone’s phone beeps, vibrates or otherwise begs for their attention it interrupts whatever they may be doing at the time.

So why is it currently allowed? The short answer is that the existing law appears to apply only where a message is transmitted over a “publicly available electronic communications network” – such as the Internet – with Bluetooth falling outside that definition.

What can you do if you don’t want to be bombarded with advertising on your phone? The short term solution is to turn the Bluetooth setting on your phone to non-discoverable / non-visible / private (the terminology varies). This isn’t a complete answer (it’s still possible, though harder, to detect phones using this setting) but will allow you to use headsets, etc. while eliminating almost all advertising.

Longer-term, however, it would be desirable to see the existing law dealing with spam extended to cover Bluetooth spam also, probably by reform of the Telecommunications Privacy Directive.