Why an opt-out opt-in doesn’t really work
I recently heard from some friends about Penton Media sending an email asking people to subscribe to get third-party email. They didn’t like being required to opt-out to avoid getting email that wasn’t requested in the first place, even if there had been a warning given that the email was coming.
Apparently, Spamhaus agreed with those folks, as SBL115700 appeared on August 15. (Currently, it says that this is the “2nd listing in less than 30 days for spam from this IP”.)
There are, of course a lot of things to say about this course of action, but one that stands out above the others. And I found the evidence this morning in my own mail reader.
The image that you see with this post (which links to a full size version) is taken from Thunderbird this morning, and it it shows you where and how this “opt-in” email arrived in my Gmail account. That’s right, it showed up in my spam folder, where it has sat for the last three days, unopened and unread.
Unlike a lot of people, I do actually go through my spam folder and see what gets caught. I just happened to see this in the midst of all of the counterfeit bag/(fake) Cialis/work at home scam/(bad) porn spam. And, the penalty for not seeing what was in my spam folder would have been to receive more email. And I could only hope at this point that Gmail would have tagged it all as spam and dealt with it so that I wouldn’t have had to.
The thing is, if I had complained about one of those emails, Penton would have told me that I had opted in to receive the mail because I hadn’t opted out. But, you see, I didn’t opt-in, I just never saw an opportunity to stop the mail preemptively. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one that this would have happened to.
That’s why a well-run opt-in campaign will mandate that the user take action to receive the mail. That action can take place in a number of places ranging from “at the website where they are signing up” to “click here to receive these valuable offers that we’re just now getting ready to send you.”
Email is certainly one of those places where you cannot assume that silence is consent.