by Mike Masnick

Revisiting The Unsubscribe Link

from the they-still-don't-work dept

In just about every silly "profile of a spammer," you tend to hear them say two things: (1) they don't send out porn spam and (2) they really do remove those who unsubscribe from their spam. Of course, most people are unlikely to believe either of those claims (for good reason), but with the passage of CAN-SPAM (which requires a "working" opt-out link) the debate keeps returning to whether or not you actually should "opt-out" of spam - since it's well known that many spammers only use that information to confirm that you're a "live one," and make sure you get plenty more spam. Sooner or later, someone had to test it out, and now an anti-spam company is claiming that only 10 to 15% of opt-out spam links are invalid - which sounds impossibly low. Of course, they don't break out just how much additional spam you will get for the few untrustworthy opt-out links. In fact, it's unclear how they really know if the opt-out works. You may not get spam from the identical spammer, but they could just as easily resell your live info to other spammers, and you have no way of knowing it was because you "opted-out." Or, more likely, they'll just start spamming you from one of the hundred other identities they have, so they can claim that the you're no longer receiving spam from that one entity, but you never opted out of the other 99.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  • identicon
    dorpus, 1 Jun 2004 @ 11:02am

    Is it just me?

    I moved to Michigan in April and got a new set of e-mail addresses. I've been careful to give my e-mail address only to reputable companies. I have only received one spam message in the past month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael Elkins, 1 Jun 2004 @ 11:34am

    I conducted this experiment myself last year

    I was getting a ton of spam at work and I figured that if it were true that I'd get even more spam from trying to use the unsubscribe links it didn't really matter at that point.

    One of the first things I noticed was that there were very few different styles of unsubscribe pages (the page you get to if you click on an unsubscribe link in s spam). It wasn't clear to me whether or not this meant that there are just a few big software packages used to control the mail lists, or whether I am just getting spammed by the same small group of people repeatedly but under many different domains. From what I've been reading, it seems like there is just a small group of people responsible for most of the traffic.

    As for the actual effect on my spam load, it did actually reduce my daily spam count by roughly one half (300 messages/day down to 150/day). However, there were a few caveats.

    The spam that was left was a combination of non-english spam (primarily Asian language), spam that had no unsubscribe links or requested that you email to unsubscribe to the list. There was no effective way for me to ever get rid of these types of messages.

    I clicked on every unsubscribe link for about two weeks, and then I stopped to see what the effect would be. Unsurprisingly, my daily spam count started to creep back up. It never got to the point it was before this experiemnt, so there does appear to be some people who do actually pay attention. However, what I believe is that the small group of spammers that are sending out all of these messages maintain opt-out lists for each customer they are mailing on behalf rather than one single opt-out list for the spammer operation. So you can opt out of receiving additional email for any particular soliciation, but most do not opt you out of all future email from the spamming operating itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.