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Boffin botheration as IET lifts axe on 20-year-old email alias service

IET phone home. Just don't email...

A decision by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to axe an ageing email alias service has left some of its members a-quiver with indignation.

Members of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), which merged with the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) to form the IET back in March 2006, had enjoyed the facility of having a email address since 1996.

Since the IET doesn't run an email service to which members can sign up, the facility was a simple aliasing system that would send on mail to the member's nominated address.

The mid-1990s were a simpler time, before the world and her dog were connected and the Compulink Information eXchange was the place to be for all manner of nerdery. Fast-forward 20 years, and things are considerably more complicated. Spam filters are only too happy to block aliased emails and, amid a rising tide of spam, the IET took a decision which, on face value, was understandable. The aliasing service needed to be turned off.

Giving users well over a year to put their affairs in order – the service is due for switch-off on 30 September 2019 – the IET emitted an announcement that it was time to move on, which is when the trouble started.

The problem is that, because it is such a respected professional body, there is cachet attached to having an or email, and the IET do not intend to allow users to keep this address. This means that users, who could have over 20 years' worth of contacts, marketing and accounts based around their existing email address, will have to find some way of updating it.

The catch-all bogeyman of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation was deployed to explain why the IET could not simply set up its own mailbox service, and the group points out that to maintain email servers for the personal use of its members was outside of its charitable remit.

The decision was taken on 27 March and notification emails were fired out during June, prompting much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the IET's forums.

Dazed and confused

One user described himself as "stunned" to receive the email. He reckoned he had hours of work ahead of him unpicking the "hundreds" of websites he'd used the account on, not to mention the costs of reprinting stationery and business cards.

More users quickly chimed in, with one "disgusted by this decision" while others called on the IET to explain what consultation had actually taken place. An IET representative fielded the questions admirably before inadvertently fanning the flames by revealing that one of the drivers for the decision was "reputational risk".

A number of members wryly commented on the irony of a group dedicated to professional engineers being unable to make their email service, er, work. A clipping from the February 1996 magazine was also produced, launching the service with:

Members using the service who change their email address will therefore not have to inform all their business and personal contacts, but will simply need to let the IEE know their new forwarding address.

That certainly hasn't aged well. Although a later suggestion that members might send a letter to the IEE to request an address makes for a nostalgic glow.

The IET told The Register that it had 10,000 active email accounts and a total of 169,000 members worldwide.

The incident is a timely reminder of the dangers of relying on an address for business over which you do not have control.

In the meantime, IET greybeards have until the end of September next year to pick a new address. The Reg notes that is available, so fill your boots.

Thanks to an anonymous Reg reader for the heads-up. ®

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