Don’t opt-out of spam?

Yesterday, Laura Atkins wrote a blog post which suggests that unsubscribing from spam doesn’t result in receiving more spam ​(Atkins 2013)​. I know that this is a project that she’s been working on for at least a month, and I don’t have any reason to doubt her results. Additionally, she links to ​(Magill 2013)​, ​(Pogue 2013)​, and ​(Dayah 2009)​, all of which show similar results.

Interestingly, this morning there was a new post by Brian Krebs which suggests that spammers do, in fact, trade opt-out information. He includes an image file from a spammer forum:

​(Krebs 2013)​

I think that it’s interesting that on offer here are opt-outs and unsubscribers.

The purpose of offering this information isn’t likely to build up lists of “HOT, ACTIVE SUBSCRIBERS” but to help spammers build lists of people who are complaining (or are likely to complain) about email. According to Brian, the last entry there mentions “abusers” which is spammer-speak for what used to be called a “screamers list”. The irony runs thick with network abusers labeling the people who complain as abusers.

I don’t think that Brian and Laura would disagree with each other concerning the implications of either her experiment or his experiences in the spammer fora. And that I have to add is that it will only take one mistake by a spammer for those suppression lists to start getting more mail.

How do you feel about spammers trading your address, even if it is just for the purpose of suppression? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Atkins, Laura. 2013. “Don’t Opt-Out of Spam!!!” Word to the Wise. November 18, 2013.
  2. Dayah, Michael. 2009. “Unsubscribe Links No Longer Considered Harmful.” Lucent Vision. March 4, 2009.
  3. Krebs, Brian. 2013. “Don’t Like Spam? Complain About It.” Krebs on Security. November 19, 2013.
  4. Magill, Ken. 2013. “Dear Anti-Spammer: Way to Make My Point.” Magill Report. January 8, 2013.
  5. Pogue, David. 2013. “Rethinking the ‘Never Unsubscribe’ Rule for Spam.” New York Times. September 1, 2013.
Mickey Chandler