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Internet World Magazine Plays a Dangerous Game With Spam

by Jim Sterne

 


When is a spam not a spam?
The answer is in the eye of the beholder

Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 10:34:03 -0500
From: Penton@dm1-cc.com
To: jsterne@targeting.com
Subject: Free Internet World Subscription
Sender: addr2@sgirl.super.nu

Dear Business Leader,

As a senior executive you are well aware of the impact of  
the Internet on your business. Therefore, we are especially  
pleased to inform you that, you've been selected to receive  
a FREE subscription to Internet World--The Voice of E-
Business and Internet Technology.

INTERNET WORLD is written for you, the professional who  
harnesses the unique powers of the Internet to create new  
worlds of value. INTERNET WORLD takes you far beyond the  
hype to identify the behind-the-scenes developments that  
are most important to your success.

Your FREE subscription to Internet World is the best way to  
access the tools you need to put the power of the Internet  
to work for your business.

To apply for your FREE subscription, simply click here:

http://www.subscribe.penton.com/inw/1c/  
---------------------------------------------------------
If you feel you have received this message in error and wish  
to un-subscribe you can do so by pressing the "Reply" and typing
REMOVE in the subject field or send your e-mail address to:  
epref@dm1-cc.com  

Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 10:14:47 -0800
To: Penton@dm1-cc.com, webmaster@penton.com, corpcomm@penton.com, vbrosnan@penton.com
From: Jim Sterne
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
Cc: Mark Gibbs

Tell me - I'm dying to know - which blithering idiot
thought that Spam would be a good way to promote a
magazine dedicated to using the Internet for business?

Astonishing. Pathetic. Myopic. Oxymoronic! Need I continue?

---------------------------------------------------------
Jim Sterne                   Target Marketing of Santa Barbara
jsterne@targeting.com                http://www.targeting.com
Author, Speaker, Consultant                  +1 805-965-3184
Internet Marketing & Customer Service Strategy Consulting
Subscribe today to the mostly monthly  "Full Sterne Ahead"
---------------------------------------------------------

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
To: jsterne@targeting.com
From: "Privacy"
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 09:05:54 -0500

Dear Mr. Sterne,

We would like to apologize for any inconvenience that we have caused you by sending you the email below.  The list of email addresses that you were on was misrepresented to us by the list broder [sic] as being 100% opt-in to receving [sic] third party emails.  We are in the process of dealing with that broker now.

We have also placed you on our do-not-email list.

Again, we apologize.



Corporate Privacy Manager

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 08:57:52 -0800
To: "Privacy"
From: Jim Sterne
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
Cc: Mark Gibbs

100% appropriate reply.
Unfortunately, this means I cannot in good conscience
ridicule your organization in public.

Shucks.
And thanks.

Just one question, though.
If one is an opt-in only organization,
why would one need a do-not-email list?

No, this is not a Zen koan, it's a serious
question. If your database is opt-in only,
then anybody who has not opted in belongs,
by definition, in the infinitely large
do-not-email list.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

From: "Privacy"
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
To: Jim Sterne
Cc: "Nina Angeloff"
Sender: "Susan Lambert"

Mr.  Sterne,

Our company, like some others, began collecting email addresses
several years ago, before we were aware that the Internet was a "different animal." Postal addresses and telephone numbers have always been used in an opt-out situation -- businesses could use them until they were asked not to.  But, email addresses, we now find, must be handled diffferently [sic].  So, storing your email address on a do-not-email list will insure that we don't use it, even if you gave it to us two years ago, before all the privacy safeguards were instituted.

I hope this helps you understand!

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@


Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 09:44:54 -0800
To: "Privacy"
From: Jim Sterne
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
Cc: "Nina Angeloff" , Mark Gibbs

At 09:11 AM 3/23/01, Privacy wrote:
>
> Mr.  Sterne,
>
> Our company, like some others, began collecting email
> addresses several years ago, before we were aware that
> the Internet was a "different animal." Postal addresses
> and telephone numbers have always been used in an opt-out
> situation -- businesses could use them until they were
> asked not to.

Jim interjected:

And rightfully so, as you are shouldering the cost of
postal mailings. A fine old tradition.

> But, email addresses, we now find, must be
> handled diffferently [sic].  

Indeed.

> So, storing your email address on a do-not-email list
> will insure that we don't use it, even if you gave it
> to us two years ago, before all the privacy safeguards
> were instituted.
>
> I hope this helps you understand!

Well, let's see if I've got this right:

1. We know that sending out e-mail to people who
   have not specifically asked for e-mail is wrong.

Check.

2. We have a database that has some old e-mail addresses
   in it that are indistinguishable from those that were
   truly opt-in.

Ooops.

3. Even though we know it's wrong (see 1.), we're going
   to spam those poor suckers who had the misfortune of
   expressing interest before we knew spam was bad.

Summation: Even though it's 5 to 10 times more costly
to find new customers than keep old ones, we're willing
to annoy our oldest customers via spam because we don't
want to take the time or trouble to sort our records by
date, or send out a postal offer inviting people to
opt in to our e-mail announcement list.

My reaction: If we were talking about Proctor and Gamble
or Pepsi or Wal-Mart, I'd shake my head sadly and lament
the loss of logic, civility and the long-term view in
corporate America today. But, ladies and gentlemen,
this is Internet World magazine we're talking about!

Allow me to quote your own publication:
---------------------------
http://www.internetworld.com/011501/01.15.01realitycheck.jsp

January 15, 2001
Fast Forward Reality Check

Don't Follow the Leader-Be One

When it comes to e-mail marketing or any data collection to which consumers are asked to "opt in" online, standards are needed that will significantly raise the bar above the present level of protection. Companies doing business related to advertising and e-mail marketing on the Net, such as DoubleClick, might be thinking, "We already abide by commonly accepted industry standards." In fact, we've heard them say as much in the past. But accepting the current standard-for example, single opt-in-means being satisfied with the lowest common denominator, and that bar is set woefully too low.
---------------------------

Journalist: Heed Thyself!

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

From: "Privacy"
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
To: Jim Sterne
Cc: Mark Gibbs , "Nina Angeloff" , "Privacy"
Sender: "Susan Lambert"
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 16:31:44 -0500

Mr. Sterne,

We collect email privacy preferences in a variety of ways:
  o Through direct mail
  o Through faxes
  o Through telemarketing.

Records with old email addresses are being updated by asking them if  XX email address is still valid, and then asking them about the various ways that we would like to email them.   The overwhelming normal means of communciation [sic] between Penton and its customers is through direct mail and telephone, so our updating process for email privacy does not need to involve emailing the person.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 16:16:25 -0800
To: "Privacy"
From: Jim Sterne
Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
Cc: Mark Gibbs , "Nina Angeloff"

If your "updating process for email privacy does not need
to involve emailing the person," then why did I get an
e-mail? Why are you sending e-mail message to e-mail addresses
that have not gone through the direct mail/fax/telemarketing
process?

And, please, call me Jim.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Subject: Re: Free Internet World Subscription
To: "Kwafo Anoff"
Cc: "Nina Angeloff" , jsterne@targeting.com
From: "Privacy"
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 10:06:56 -0500

Kwafo,

It might be a good idea if you were to respond to Mr. Jim Sterne's email below.  I have corresponded with him on this subject for the past couple of days, but he still needs more information.  Could you please explain to him how you came to email him?  Thanks.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Subject: Internet World
To: jsterne@targeting.com
Cc: "Nina Angeloff" , "Virginia Brosnan"
From: "Kwafo Anoff"
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 10:38:48 -0500

Hi Mr. Sterne,

This is in response to your email regarding the recent subscription request you received from Internet World. I'd first like to apologize for any inconvenience caused. I'd also be shirking my responsibility if I don't explain how we came by your email address.

To serve our advertisers better, we periodically send out
promotions to potential subscribers to strengthen our
demographics. In doing so, we solicit lists from reputable list brokers to assist us in list selection for such promotions. That's the reason for the recent email that you received. We rented what we were guaranteed was an opt-in ONLY email list from Ecommerce Network through The Lake Group in New York.  Unfortunately, this list had your address and that's why you received Internet World's solicitation.

I can assure you that, we don't knowingly rent opt-out names nor
do we condone SPAM in any way, shape or form. Again, please accept my apologies and we'll refrain from sending you any more email.

Thanks

Kwafo Anoff
Circulation Director
Internet World
P-203 559-2803
F-203 559-2813

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@


Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 20:01:55 -0800
To: "Kwafo Anoff"
From: Jim Sterne
Subject: Re: Internet World
Cc: "Nina Angeloff" , "Virginia Brosnan" , Mark Gibbs

At 07:38 AM 3/28/01, Kwafo Anoff wrote:
> Hi Mr. Sterne,
>
> This is in response to your email regarding the recent
> subscription request you received from Internet World.
> I'd first like to apologize for any inconvenience caused.

Jim responded:

I appreciate your sincerity in this matter.

> I'd also be shirking my responsibility if I don't
> explain how we came by your email address.

And I'd be shirking mine, if I didn't bring you up to
speed on the conversation so far. Allow me:

[everything written above was reproduced for Kwafo]

> To serve our advertisers better, we periodically send
> out promotions to potential subscribers to strengthen
> our demographics. In doing so, we solicit lists from
> reputable list brokers to assist us in list selection
> for such promotions. That's the reason for the recent
> email that you received. We rented what we were guaranteed
> was an opt-in ONLY email list from Ecommerce Network
> through The Lake Group in New York.  Unfortunately, this
> list had your address and that's why you received Internet
> World's solicitation.

Not surprisingly, I have never had any communication of
any sort with either Ecommerce Network nor The Lake Group
in New York. A quick visit to The Lake Group's home page
reveals a proud membership in the DMA. The DMA's Marketing
Online Privacy Principles and Guidance at:
http://www.the-dma.org/library/guidelines/onlineguidelines.shtml#D
clearly states an opt-out approach:

"On-line e-mail solicitations should be clearly identified as solicitations and should disclose the marketer's identity. Marketers using e-mail should furnish consumers with whom they do not have an established business relationship with notice and a mechanism through which they can notify the marketer that they do not wish to receive future on-line solicitations."

Yes, The Lake Group claims their lists are "100% opt-in,"
but when one lies down with dogs, as they say, one gets
up with fleas.

One of those fleas seems to be the Ecommerce Network. I
may not be the best searcher online, but a review of pages
at Yahoo, Alta Vista and Google returned no such listing
connected to an e-mail marketing organization. The Lake
Group's Web site also does not list them as a source.

The first list: The Lake Group lists on their site is
AlphaCraze.com. AlphaCraze is an e-tail site. Their
privacy policy language includes the following:

   E-mail Lists
   From time to time, AlphaCraze.com will send e-mails to
   customers regarding specials, promotions and added
   features to our site. We respect your privacy and will
   certainly honor your request to not receive e-mails of
   this nature from AlphaCraze.com. You are asked on the
   checkout section of our website as to whether or not
   you would like to receive e-mails.

However, their order form makes an important error:

   AlphaCraze NewsLetter
   As a valued AlphaCraze customer, we would like to keep you
   informed of updates and special offers through our website
   and select Alphacraze advertisers. Would you like to
   subscribe to this? [x]Yes []No

Notice that the default is a pre-checked "Yes" radio button.
This, by definition, is opt-out.

The Economist is another offender:

   User Choices
   All registration and order forms provide users with a series of
   choices as regards further promotional activity, forms of
   communication and third party processing.

   When filling out order or registration forms on Economist.com,
   users should indicate whether they are receptive to the use of
   e-mail to inform them of further Economist Group promotional
   literature. If you are keen to be kept informed of further
   Economist.com products as well as technical/functional
   developments related to our website and on-line services then
   you should untick the e-mail opt-in box.

"Unticking" a pre-check box is opt-out by definition. In case
you don't agree, the Economist themselves use the very word in
the next paragraphs:

   If you don't wish to hear from these companies, please untick
   the appropriate box on the registration form to opt out of
   such activity.

   We will occasionally allow other similar but reputable
   organisations to contact you. If you don't wish to hear
   from these companies, please untick the appropriate box
   on the registration form to opt out of such activity.

The Lake Group also lists ICB Toll Free Newsletter as
a source of e-mail addresses. I find this fascinating
as their registration page begins with:

   Your name and contact information will not be divulged
   rented leased sold shared whispered etc.)

Somebody's sitting too close to the cathode ray tube.

They also list Postage4Free whose links from their home
page to their Privacy Policy are inoperative.

> I can assure you that, we don't knowingly rent opt-out
> names nor do we condone SPAM in any way, shape or form.
> Again, please accept my apologies and we'll refrain
> from sending you any more email.

Your apologies are welcome and accepted, but several questions
are left open. The one I find most interesting remains:

   In a world of double opt-in only, why does one
   need a do-not-email database?

And now, Kwafo, you know why they passed me along to you.

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

As of April 10, almost two weeks after sending the above,
I had not heard back from Kwafo nor anybody else at
Penton.com.

I *did*, however hear back from the Lake Group:

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

From: Vincent Lemma
To: 'Jim Sterne'
Subject: RE: Ecommerce Network
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001 09:04:22 -0500

Jim,
Unfortunately I do not represent the Ecommerce Network's e-mail list, I am not to sure who does, I wish I could help.  What targets are yuou looking for we represent some other lists that may have your audience.
Let me know if I can help.
Thanks
Vince

@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

And why did that original message come from an island in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Tonga???

Sigh


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