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A Dispatch

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February 23, 2008

Opting In Ticks Me Off

In Spam Wars I urge caution when confronted with forms that control your email preferences. In the past I have seen plenty of confusing, double-negative statements next to checkboxes that would take a logician to decipher. I thought that practice was a thing of the past, or at least relegated to really sneaky marketers.

Until today.

I registered at a web site that supports a British cultural magazine, to which I subscribe. The publisher behind the magazine produces a number of small-niche magazines that appeal (not to pat myself on the back) to a fairly intelligent clientele. Okay, we're downright snooty and snobby. But that's not the point.

What got my goat was a series of checkboxes at the bottom of the form. Disguising the name of the publishing house, here is what confronted me:

From time to time [removed] will allow carefully selected parties to contact you about their products and services. Please indicate below your preferences.

 Please tick here if you want to receive carefully screened work-related emails from selected third parties
 Please tick here if you do not want to receive relevant work-related direct mail from selected third parties
 Please tick here if you do not want to receive relevant work-related information via telephone from selected third parties

The initial state of all three checkboxes is unchecked. If you read the first one and don't want to get emails, then you'll leave it unchecked. But if you assume that leaving the remaining two unchecked also keeps you off the lists, you'd be mistaken. To be kept off all lists, you have to use the correct matrix: no-tick, tick, tick (I think).

That's downright disgusting. There is no need to introduce asymmetry to the selection process—except to confuse or deceive registrants. Shame on this web site form and its perpetrators.

[BTW, the business in the wording about "work-related direct mail" acknowledges fine points of British anti-spam laws. Work-related and general consumer unsolicited email have different protections under the law.]

This outfit has turned a previously happy paying customer into someone suspicious of its every move. Good work, chaps!

Posted on February 23, 2008 at 09:47 PM