Thursday 1 February 2007

Update to the Dark Reading Spam Saga

Dark Reading/Light Reading/TechWeb responded publicly in its forum about my accusation that it's sending spam:

hi folks,
chris williams here (i'm the web development manager for Dark Reading). i disagree about whether or not requiring "opt-out" should be considered spam. i think that if an entity makes clear in its policies that it will be contacting folks, but makes it very clear how to opt-out of that contact in each email, then that's not spam. it's just a reality of web-based business that email is still the best way to promote online events and products. i agree totally that there are lots of companies trying hard to trick you into getting on a list, then multiplying that list, and making it really hard for you to remove yourself from any of those lists.

however, we aren't doing that. we've tried since day one to be very responsive and to make it easy for folks to remove themselves from all of our lists. i'm being totally honest when i say that we didn't intend to omit lists from the preferences page to make it hard for folks to remove themselves... we just thought we'd made it easier for folks to get off those lists by including a link in every email to a page that removes a person from the specific list they referenced and tells them if they are subscribed to any other lists that we manage (and gives them a chance to unsubscribe from all of those lists right then).

i think you guys have made a great point about the lack of clarity on our preferences page about how to get off our promotional lists. so i've updated the preferences page to include those lists and allow users to remove themselves from those lists via the form just like regular newsletter subscriptions.

thanks for reading and posting,
To which I replied:
Chris, bravo for fixing the problem.

However, the admission that you intended people who unchecked every box to still receive promotional email leaves a nasty taste. As does the incorrect privacy policy. As does the sneaky positioning of the final default-opt-in checkbox.

Let me be very clear, direct marketers such as LR/DR/TechWeb are not the enemy -- "real" spammers who steal millions of addresses and misuse others' computing resources are the enemy. The problem comes when well-meaning people act like spammers.

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