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A Dispatch

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August 14, 2008

No, Dammit, I Am NOT Subscribed

I've heard of someone putting words into your mouth—to make it appear you said something you didn't—but some of the slicker spammers (slick, as in greasy) want to put clicks into my mouse.

A spam message promoting a "webinar" unfortunately found its way into my email client (which suspected it was junk). From what I could tell in the text part of the message (I'm not downloading the images), this webinar is nothing more than a sales pitch for a piece of business software.

At the bottom of the message, in 10-pixel light grey type is the following line:

You are receiving this email as a subscribed reader of eChannelLine Daily News and have selected to receive promotions from our partners.

Every time I look up the word "subscribe" in dictionaries, I keep coming up with the same requirement of the subscriber having to actively participate in the action. Here are some excerpts from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

  • to assent to
  • to give consent or approval to something written by signing
  • to enter one's name for a publication or service

Because I did none of the above, how can I be subscribed? If I never subscribed, how can I have then selected to receive promotions?

Sir, I allege that your pants are on fire.

I never unsubscribe from lists to which I have not subscribed. If the sender lies about my initial subscription, how can I trust him to do the right thing with my unsubscribe request? Even clicking the unsubscribe link could potentially cook my goose, because the URL is coded with my email address, which the server will track instantly.

Some governments have been toying with antispam legislation that requires senders of email solicitations to maintain an audit trail of how an email address found its way onto a list in the first place. I advocate this in Spam Wars if, for no other reason, it could expose liars in their lies (like the ones that claim you subscribed from an IP address—that happens to be located in Outer Crockistan). Unfortunately, that idea would also put extra burdens on those senders who have used correct opt-in procedures all along. As with a great deal of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law, such legislation makes business more difficult for those who do the right thing by their very natures, and fails to curb abuses by those who thumb their noses at the laws, especially from outside the U.S.

For the clown who sent today's missive, I'll simply delete all future messages right on my server. He can continue to flog my email address to his partners, inflating his list by one that is guaranteed to provide zero return. It's just my little contribution to a lower response rate his potential partners can count on.

Now that's something I can subscribe to.

Posted on August 14, 2008 at 09:32 AM