Summary: Got access to email of people I would like to contact by an accident of the sender, is it ethical to contact them?
A few years ago I attended an important event. The invitation was sent by accident to all participants (about 25 people), but we could see each other's emails due to a mistake of the person who sent the emails.
Now, I am organizing an event and would like to invite these people to attend. The event 2 years ago was relatively small, so I did meet some of these people, however they did not give me directly their email.
In academia, this would not be a problem, however, this event was a business/politics event and the people I would like to contact are CEO's of companies, top members of the government and the media, that is, they do not have their email available to the public. Because of this, I believe they will be suspicious of my email from the beginning, even if I mention the event we both attended.
If one of these people replied, it would be very advantageous to me, but I don't want to damage the reputation of the event. Also, I was invited as a student to the event, so I do not have the same professional status as they have.
I would like to know your opinion of what to do. I have consulted some friends and it looks like this question is highly cultural dependent. Some people think sending the emails would signal I would really appreciate their presence in the event and I went out of my way to get their contact. For other people, I am only damaging the reputation of the event I was invited to for my own personal benefit.
This group of people I want to invite belongs to a variety of countries, so I would appreciate if you could mention your background when replying.
Thank you for the comments. I decided not to send the emails. Ripstein, the emails are not public. Hilmar, I think there could be a positive response because the topic of my event is related to the interests of the people I would contact from the list (I would contact only about 5 people, not all attendants) and they might be able to attend since the event will take place several months in the future. Droid, that's my favorite comment, it would be uncomfortable. However, it is hard to use that as a parameter because organizing an event makes me feel constantly uneasy, so it is hard to judge when I am pushing too far by oneself. Laurent, I think in this case it is not classified as spam legally because(1)I would only email ~5 people, (2) it is not malicious.
I would prefer not to add the location because this event involves mostly foreigners in the country it took place, so it could be misleading. Adding further details of the nationality of the involved could make links to the event, which is also undesirable.