Is unsubscribing from spam enough?

Summary:How do we get on those spam lists anyway? And if our names are being bought and sold, shouldn't we get a cut? Finally, should legislation have gone further by allowing spam recipients to do more than just unsubsribe to bulk e-mail they don't want?

Speaking of spam, I received a note this morning from another bulk e-mailer -- one called NewSource -- that apparently e-mails newsletters to journalists once a month.  The organization appears to play by the Can Spam rules, giving me a way to unsubscribe from the organization's e-mail list while also providing contact names, snail-mail addresses, and phone numbers.  This morning, as I followed the unsubscribe links, they raised a question in my mind as to whether an unsubscribe utility is enough.  When I clicked on the unsubscribe links in the e-mail, I was taken to a page that said "Welcome David Berlind, Below, you can remove yourself from future mailings and are able to change your contact information. If you unsubscribe, you will no longer receive email communication from us."  It then told me I was subscribed to two lists: "Adnet1" (with the word "Ad" in it, that sounds fishy) and "Whalibm1".  What these lists are, I have no idea.  Nor was any additional information provided.

I immediately unchecked them to indicate that I no longer wanted to get them in my inbox.  I was then taken to a new page that confirmed that I had been removed from "all" mailing lists.  But then, it gave me a place to click if I wanted to review my settings. In other words, I was able to take myself off those mailing lists, but not out of NewSource's database altogether.  NewSource was still keeping an active record under my name which raises another obvious question: If I ended up on those two mailing lists without subscribing in the first place, now that I can't remove their record of me  from their systems, what will prevent me from being involuntarily subscribed again?  Shouldn't I be able to remove myself from the company's database altogether?

To get an answer, I called the person whose name -- Craig King -- and number were listed on the e-mail.  I asked King a lot of questions.  For example, how did I get on list in the first place?  From another list, he told me (if my name is being bought and sold, shouldn't I get a cut?).   Then I asked him what those two e-mail lists were (Adnet1 and Whalibm1).   King didn't know.  "The only one I know about," King told me, "is our NewSource newsletter.  I don't know what those ones are."  This raised a whole bunch of other questions.  For example, why is his name and number listed as the contact  if he can't answer these simple questions? Worse,  I just unsubscribed from two e-mail newsletters and neither of them are apparently the one that I wanted to unsubscribe from in the first place? Does this mean I'm still subscribed?  He didn't know.  He had no idea.  He said "I can have the IT guy get back to you."    The IT guy?  The IT guy doesn't make the business decisions I told him.  "Yeah, but  he'd know the answers."  This is when I thought that maybe the IT guy's contact info should be on the newsletter instead of King.'s.

My last question for King was, "You gave me a way to unsubscribe to those newsletters but how about a way to erase all traces of my being from your systems altogether?"  King's Answer?  "Again, I can have the IT guy get in touch with you."  

To me, this is an example of spam legislation gone awry.  It's wonderful that the law now requires all this contact information to show up on the e-mail.  But if that information is just going to lead us to another black hole (as opposed to the one we had to find on our own before such information was provided with "legal spam"), what good is the legislation?

Topics: Collaboration

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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