back to article BT blasts hundreds of would-be customers' data into Infinity

As one of Britain's largest and most venerable technology firms, you might expect BT to have grasped the basics of email by now. Alas, today brings news of another prang on the information superhighway for the Race to Infinity, BT's invitation to overlooked communities to plead with it to improve their local broadband …


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  1. David Aston

    Data security? Well, we've heard of it....

    I was on the list as well - quite enjoyed some of the comments flowing across the country last night......although some had a sense of humour failure...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      care to share?

      see title.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    better way

    During the course of the day, get a couple hundred people to infiltrate BTs head offices under various pretenses and start urinating on things until they are dragged out kicking and screaming.

    You still won't get a good broadband connection but at least that way they know how you feel.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Having worked there, it might be an improvement.

  3. Avatar of They
    Thumb Up


    But at least it shows that they understand email. Only about two decades behind the rest of the world, but they are getting there, bless 'em.

  4. Alex Brett

    Re: Awesome

    Given the comment about 'recalling' it, it looks like they might understand Outlook, I think claiming they understand email is giving them perhaps a bit too much credit...

    1. Annihilator


      What? You mean the world outside my office isn't connected to the same exchange server? Madness I say!

  5. N2

    Grasp the basics of e-mail?

    Dont make me laugh, no chance, not a hope in hell,

    If youre unlucky enough to use a BTadsl, the BT wankers also inject into the header of every e-mail regardless of if you use their mailbox or not.

    For which AFAIK they (still) dont have the common courtesy to host an A record for the domain

    They should be hung by their balls for that alone.

    1. copsewood

      If you use their MSA you accept their header

      I'd be surprised, and you would have genuine cause for complaint, if those on this BT network using their own non-BT MSA (Mail Submission Agent) for relaying outgoing mail to the rest of the world get this header added through packet modification. Similar issue if they modify your incoming email packets without relaying these to you. But in general if you don't like your ISPs outgoing relay policies, then run your own outgoing relay (I run my own and am on Virgin Media's network who don't modify my incoming or outgoing emails) or find a third party to run your MSA whose policies you prefer.

      The SMTP standards require relays in the delivery chain to identify themselves in a Received: header, see RFC 2821 section 3.8.2 : "When forwarding a message into or out of the Internet environment, a gateway MUST prepend a Received: line, but it MUST NOT alter in any way a Received: line that is already in the header."

      See also: .

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Provided opting-out is a viable choice

        More likely lots if not all of the IP space other than their mail servers is in various blacklists starting with the "this is residential space" ones. And then they might filter and/or forbid via Ts&Cs SMTP through other than their servers.

        But anyway, this is BT. They're a *telco*. That means that they don't have a clue about internetworking, nevermind proper running of services. Even though somehow /everyone/ including themselves expect them to have gotten it right. I haven't seen a telco do that in, er, as long as there was internetworking. They just can't do it, cap'n.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Central Plus

      If you are getting, then you are using an ISP sans infrastructure. Centralplus is the BTWholesale infrastructure standing in as your ISPs, they rent the copper and IP network off BT and also the handover onto the net proper. Unless you are on LLU or cable, you may as well be on BT Broadband for all the difference it makes to which CP you go with (traffic shaping and other services not counted)

  6. AndrueC Silver badge


    If a thing's worth doing do it yourself. And they outsourced it.

    'Nuff said I guess.

    Mind you I did enjoy a good laugh reading about their recall attempt.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge


    ... means never having to say, "It's our fault"

  8. Code Monkey

    BT: Bunch of Twunts

    They really are laughably incompetant. I look forward to the day that mobile internet's good enough to sack them entirely.

    PS if the Reg style guide doesn't already ban "information superhighway" with the exception of "prang on the information superhighway" I think it should. 10/10 for that one!

    1. Alan Esworthy

      "information superhighway" *gag*

      How about "databahn" as an alternative?

      1. John 62

        wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n

        auf der Databahn. Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Databahn.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mobile still BT

      Just so you know, BT handles the backhaul for nearly all the major mobile operators, so once you hand off at the cell tower, you are back on BT network.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "To Infinity and Beyond!"

    Sorry, couldn't help myself.

    Frankly, it sounds like the Buzz I could pick up at Walmart is smarter than BT.

  10. JaitcH

    "Britain's largest and most venerable technology firms" - That was yester year, that was

    In an earlier century the former POT's (Post Office Telephones) were innovators with a bunch of sharp people employed at the Dollis Hill Research Station.

    The balance of it's success was essentially a nationalisation of private companies and endeavours. See: < >.

    Towards the end of the last century both the U.S. and U.K. governments recognised that large national telecoms entities were a failure and introduced break-ups & competition.

    It seems that the lethargy of POT's prevails to this day, in many departments, and the competition at home and abroad run circles around BT showing it up for the lacklustre entity it is.

  11. Steve James 1

    It wasn't spam

    I also got the list last night. Seemed to be 967 emails on the list. Suprisingly the list didn't look like it had been data cleaned either, as one address appeared to be xxxxx@xxxxx.couk . Interesting country code that one!!!

    Also, it was the 1st email I've had from BT in about 10 years that BT Yahoo didn't automatically put into my spam folder. Miracles do happen.

  12. Mark Rosher

    Why was everyone replying to all tho?

    I was on the list. I was very unimpressed. But I just emailed the sender and asked for my address to be deleted (in fairly sarcastic terms, it has to be said). I didn't feel the need to copy in the other 965 addresses (965 in my copy anyhow, I presume there were several versions if yours only had 500 addresses in it). Later that evening, I got a human authored email of apology from Jess, but nice though that was it doesn't remove the feeling of utter fail I gained from the experience...

  13. Tim Spence
    Thumb Down

    BT or not BT

    "In fairness to BT, the direct blame for this latest embarrassment belongs to Porter Novelli, the public relations boutique running the Race to Infinity"

    Right, so you slag off and blame BT for this tremendous cockup, and how they should be tech-savvy given they're a technology company, and how this further displays how shite they are, and then at the very bottom admit that it's actually not their fault, and it's probably some spotty non-techy work experience admin at a PR company BT has contracted to handle the work.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Logic Failure

      In what way is it not BT's fault that they hired a technically incompetent PR company? Nowhere does the article suggest this isn't at some level BT's fault (note “direct blame”). You assert that in your comment and incorrectly ascribe it to the authors of the article.

      Colossal waste of money to use a PR firm for this sort of thing, surely, BT must have in-house people capable of doing this far better. I wonder who wrote the horrible Flash thing on the website too, it's really dreadful. Trying to get the text fields to accept keyboard input was a real struggle.

      1. Robert Hill

        No choice...

        ALL PR companies are pretty much technically incompetent. PR companies entire business is about marketing and spin, and their is NO viable career path in such a company for a serious or even good techie. That's not to slag them off - it's just the way of the world - only a fairly incompetent tech would chose to work where he has no career path.

      2. Tim Spence

        No logic failure

        The article is highly damning of BT, and all through it accuses it directly of cocking up. It's only once you get to the last paragraph that it apologetically says along the lines of, "actually, ignore all that we said up there, in fairness it's not directly BT's fault like we implied ALL THROUGH THE STORY"

        You want it clearer...?

        Quote 1: "As one of Britain's largest and most venerable technology firms, you might expect BT to have grasped the basics of email by now."

        Well, as it makes clear at the end, it wasn't BT or any BT employee sending it, so that statement is nullified.

        Quote 2: "It yesterday emailed about 500 members of the public who volunteered to drum up interest in the wheeze in their area."

        Uhh, no, it didn't, it's (incompetent, in hindsight) PR company did on it's behalf.

        Quote 3: "But BT failed to use BCC to hide the would-be campaigners' email addresses and identities from each other"

        See point above.

        I could go on.

        Basically, the article says "BT did x, y, and z, how terrible and stupid they are for doing that?!" and then finishes with "actually, in fairness, it wasn't BT who did it, it was some incompetent company they hired on their behalf."

        All BT are guilty of here, is of not having physic powers to have predicted what company was going to cock up on their behalf.

        Agreed that using a PR company to manage something as simple as this is stupid though, however, perhaps in the weird world of economics, it's cheaper to pay someone else than their own staff...

        1. Jimbo 6



          Otherwise, agreed.

        2. Adrian Challinor

          Total logic failure

          If you have a press release sent out, then you are responsible for it. It doesn't matter if you out source it, you remain responsible. Think of TV Adverts - BT doesn't make them, but it is responsible. You can't hide behind the "not me sir, its that PR company over there".

          BT are using the PR company to promote a new technology service - they take total responsibility for the content and the delivery.

          (I was trying to think of BT advert with Jane and Adam that would contravene the OFCOM code, but when I thought of Adam showing his mates how fast his upload speed was by posting the "cough" home movies he and Jane had made it quite put me off my breakfast, so I decided I would refrain).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            If it's your press release, then yes, you're responsible. But it's the people who made the mistakes who made the mistakes. The article implies BT made the mistakes when plainly they didn't.

  14. Linker3000

    Ah yes, BT...

    ...the company that still sends me unsolicited business emails even though I have unsubscribed from their drivel numerous times - and here's the kicker: now the emails start something like: We know you didn't want to hear from us again but can we have permission to resubscribe you because we really want to tell you about "X product" - which has these features.....


  15. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    PR Twonks

    Best avoided at all costs.

    - expensive

    - unskilled in basic IT matters

    - careless

  16. martin burns

    Mass mail? FAIL

    Any half-arsed marketing firm should be able to send 900-odd individual, personalised emails in under 10 minutes, rather than blasting a single mail off to 900-odd cc/bcc recipients.

    Ah, but this is PR, isn't it? So sorry.

  17. RW

    @ AC 15th October 2010 14:34 GMT

    "a technically incompetent PR company"

    1. Is there any other kind?

    2. Tautology alert!

    Interesting how, somehow, we've developed a politico-socio-economic system that...

    a. invariably confuses the sizzle with the steak.

    b. fills up senior corporate positions with sociopaths and psychopaths. Esp. true in the financial sector.

    c. infests lower levels of management with incompetents. Judging from the doofuses I used to work under, if you hired your managers out of the people waiting at the nearest bus stop, you would be no worse off and quite likely better off. Scott Adams' "Dilbert" with its pointy-haired boss is no joke.

    d. gives the bean counters, the lawyers, and the marketing wonks authority over the actual work of an organization. My personal opinion is that all three groups' members should be kept locked up in small cages in the lowest sub-basement, gagged and bound, and only released when those who actually know what they are doing need a little financial, legal, or psychological advice. As matters stand, these three tails definitely wag the dog.

    e. has turned journalism into a branch of entertainment and celebrity worship. Even the most stately of newspapers and magazines are hard to distinguish from the movie magazines read by air headed teen-aged girls 50-60 years ago. In those days, we right thinking people quite rightfully scorned such magazines and those who read them as trash read by trash, but now they are mainstream. Is it any wonder that Sarah Palin, whose only assets seem to be an extravagantly sunny smile and decent looks, is actually taken seriously in some quarters?

    We need a George Grosz or a Heinrich Kley to lampoon these twits

  18. BryanM


    "Venerable: commanding respect because of great age or impressive dignity"

    Since when did this ever apply to BT?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Possibly by being the oldest existing telco in the world?

  19. sean bone
    Gates Halo

    Even Bill Gates Cant Make That Errpr

    But then again, he helped develop Vista!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Being slightly pedantic...

      ... I don't think he had much to do with Vista, he was to busy spending loads of money on helping eradicate diseases in developing countries.

  20. Simon Brown

    @Tim Spence - if you work for me you do it my way

    BT is a fairly large company working in a moderately regulated field. They will have standard operating procedures which they, their staff and any contracted companies will have signed up to and will adhere to. There has been one of two cock-ups here:


    1.) Peter Novelli signed up to the SOP but didn't stick with it and tell their staff how to do email marketing properly - unlikely because this is a good way of losing contracts and for a small PR agency you don't want to do that.

    or (more likely)

    2.) BT's marketing dept didn't bother to enforce SOP adherence with Peter Novelli. Fail.

    That said Novelli really need to bring in some basic training for staff.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Not good but there is worse

    The BT snafu is definitively not a good one. But admittedly error happens.

    A solution to these kind of issues is to use "throw-away" email addresses. Even better, if you own your domain you can create email addresses that are unique to the retailer you are communicating with.

    But that's when it makes you realise that some people are even worse than BT:

    Today I got some SPAM on my email address that is uniquely linked to my O'Reilly Safari account.

    It means that they either sold the address or that it was stolen from them (and neither possibility are nice to envisage)...

    1. Goat Jam
      Thumb Up

      100% Concur

      " Even better, if you own your domain you can create email addresses that are unique to the retailer you are communicating with"

      This is a great way of finding those who are <ahem> let's just say "lax" with your email address.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Custom addresses...

        Yep, I do this all the time as well. It's outstanding just how many buggers I've caught out when I start getting junk e-mails to very specific e-mail addresses...

  22. Gareth Morgan
    Thumb Down

    A genuine opportunity

    It's not to be rural anyway. I trotted in to register and found it said:

    "Sorry but your exchange is not eligible to win The Race to Infinity as it has fewer than 1000 premises.

    We still want you to get involved so please go to 'VOTE NOW' to express your interest.

    If 75% of your exchange registers, BT will engage with your community to see what we can do in your area."

    So I went to the voting page and, after providing my compulsory marketing information for them to lose, got:

    "The website cannot display the page

    HTTP 500

    Most likely causes:

    •The website is under maintenance.

    •The website has a programming error."

  23. Simon Brown

    PS I know it's Porter Novelli

    PS I know it's Porter Novelli... but someone somewhere in all this has definitely been promoted to their level of incompetence...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's be fair to BT

    If they hadn't outsourced then they'd have made an even bigger fuck-up.

  25. gimbal

    BT can outsource the work

    ...but, lawfully, they cannot outsource the final responsibility. It's their name on the operation, and it's their blame to take the final seat for.

    If they need to vet their PR firms for tech savviness, before making a contract with whom - but, well, by the looks of it, they just might want to outsource that vetting work, come to think of it.

    Where does the madness end? At the OFF button, for which a STOP button will novelly suffice.

  26. John Doe 1

    With less-informed (read: bumbling) outsourced partners like these...

    ...who needs enemies?

  27. Giorgio
    Thumb Up

    Really fibre optic?!

    BT has once again compromised the infrstructure of this country by rolling out a "cheap version" of fibre optic broadband! AND carry on using the phrase "Up to xxx broadband speed"!

    How can the leaders of this country so complacent with the BT senior management?

    Let me explain for you that don't know what they have done.

    Instead of doing a "Fibre To Home" infrastructure like everyone else is doing in the world, BT decided to do a "Fibre To Cabinet" infrastructure. What that means is that BT will only do Fibre to the exchange which leaves YOU with the coper cabling infratructure problems that you already have.

    SO the speed that you will get still depends on how far you are from the exchange which really defeats the purpose of fibre optic infrastructures!

    I have already BT Infinity in my area and I live a bit far from the Exchange so when I did express my intentions the BT web site show that I can only get max 16 Mb speed which increased from 7 Mb so they say which I only had managed to get a max speed of 6 Mb.

    Even coutries like Portugal have a better infrastructure than UK, they already have 1 Gb speed fibre to home (MEO internet) and that is download and upload speeds! BUT that is REALLY fibre to home and you do really get that speed according to reviews over there. Oh, and they have 3 different providers with their own fibre infrasctrutre SO don't listen to BT when they say it is too expensive to do that! That is rubish! Fibre per meter is cheaper than copper now!

    I just can't believe that we are going to be once again at the bottom of Europe when it come to internet speed an infrasctruture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Relevant Much?

      Did you even read the article? Do you have any idea what you're talking about? Fibre to the cabinet isn't fibre to the exchange. With FTTC the fibre gets as close to your home as it does with Virgin's fibre optic offer.

      Fibre cable may be cheaper than copper for a clean install, it's unlikely to be cheaper than the copper that's already there in pretty much every street in the country.

      Why do the people who know the least always have the firmest views (and the strongest desire to shout those views from the rooftops)?

  28. Mage Silver badge

    once again at the bottom of Europe?

    No. Ireland is.

    FTTC is NOT Fibre backhaul to exchange. It's Fibre to a Street Cabinet.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

  30. Ray Simard

    Recalling the message?

    I don't recall anything in SMTP that provides for recalling messages. I think there's such a thing in NNTP, but not SMTP.

    Just what kind of recalling were they trying to do in that second cock-up?

    @Alan Esworthy: "Databahn" I love it! (And the Kraftwerk comment following)

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