The Problem Of White Collar Spam

from the it's-not-just-the-scammers dept

While the Direct Marketing Association wants you to believe that spam is only spam if it’s fraudulent, the NY Times is pointing out that “white collar spam” – or spam that is sent out by legitimate companies is getting progressively worse. The problem is that legitimate companies collect email addresses, and then some clueless marketing person realizes they can make a few extra bucks selling their lists. Sometimes these are lists where the person has unwittingly checked off a fine print agreement to “receive marketing offers”, but often, companies just ignore their own privacy policies. Plus, there are hundreds of email list brokers – all claiming to offer “opt-in” lists, but there’s no way to verify that, so many are less than honest about it. Besides, as the various lists get passed around, no one knows where the email addresses came from or what they were approved for. To make matters even worse, you have companies going out of business, and having their lists sold, where old privacy policies are completely ignored and former employees who take their own copies of email lists and sell them to anyone who wants them. Basically, if you’ve ever given a company an email address, it’s probably been passed around, and there’s not much you can do about it. The companies claim that there’s nothing they can do, because there’s no way to know which email addresses are valid “opt-in” addresses. That’s a lie, of course. There’s an easy way to only use real opt-in email addresses – and that’s the get the email addresses yourself, and to keep an audit trail showing that the user signed up and confirmed that they wanted to be on the list. If you can’t show an audit on an opt-in user, then you shouldn’t be sending email to that user.

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Comments on “The Problem Of White Collar Spam”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Been there....

Just the other day our Sales guy requested “some way to Email all our customers with a pitch”.

I just turned away and wimpered.

This is not the first time this has happened to me as a Web Developer, my old boss – who hated spam, and made us put all sorts of rediculous anti-spam measures on our website, asked me to create a database of our customers so we could add Email spam to our repetoire of fax spam!

Of course, the fax spam never worked properly – for some unknown reason, the modems were always breaking, ahem.

Tom J. says:

Use disposal addresses

There is a clear solution I’ve been using for years: Companies are only given disposable addresses that point to my real and unpublished e-mail address. When a disposable address gets its first spam, I can not only turn off that address, I know where the spammer got that address from. Guess what, there are some very untrustworthy magazine and catalog sales companies.
I use SpamEx, but there are at least four main players with such services, and I read last week that Yahoo! will begin offering such a service soon. At that point the best spam management option to-date may start to become mainstream.

David Cotovsky says:

The Problem of White Collar Spam

White collar spam, or any spam for that matter, is an indicator of the failure of corporate captitalism to serve the American public. Now we have to spend time and effort begging to avoid being harrassed in all modes of communication (mail, email, telephone, obnoxious billboards, radio, etc.) We have to opt-out of all manner of mindless corporate jargon to recover an existence with a degree of sanity. Many modes of communication have become so corrupt with the corporate presence in our lives that they must be abandoned. Even the extremely arrogant architecture of some corporate buildings instills a hatred of all things corporate, if employment for a corporation wasn’t enough to do it. They put their graffitti on sports teams, public facilities, as they attempt to ingratiate themselves into the public consciousness.

So, the real problem of spam of any kind is the entity that created it has grown into a generator of public nausea of monstrous proportions that must not be allowed to continue.

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