How SPAM Profits Killed Permission Marketing

The Gawker piece on Apple’s “embarrassment” for giving up the email addresses and personal information of some high tone celebrities and “A-listers” misses the most important part of the story. As they tell it, “According to the data we were given by the web security group that exploited vulnerabilities on the AT&T network, we believe 114,000 user accounts have been compromised, although it’s possible that confidential information about every iPad 3G owner in the U.S. has been exposed.”

Gawker puts the blame on Apple and apparently because it was such an “exclusive” list of subscribers, the FBI finally got involved and today in the NYTimes, we learn arrests were made: “The men, Daniel Spitler, 26, and Andrew Auernheimer, 25, who are part of a group known as Goatse Security, gained national attention when they discovered a security loophole on AT&T’s Web site that allowed them to gain access to the addresses and corresponding iPad identification numbers.”

The most important part of the story, goes to the fact that there are literally hundreds of companies and individuals selling email addresses to all sorts of “marketing” folks and business owners around the world. We get offers daily to buy a DVD with thousands of email addresses and other pertinent data under the cover of marketing information. Now they won’t tell you they will actually send your message to these addresses, but they won’t tell you not to use them yourself to do that.

Far as I can tell, even notable technology companies are buying this data and using it under the name of “permission marketing.” To boot, there are lots of “email marketing” companies that will tell you that it’s fine to use these email addresses as long as you send them something of value and give the recipients the option of opting out. When I asked when the rubric of Permission Marketing changed to the “as long as it’s something of value” or something you think the recipient will enjoy getting, all I got was a few winks and a bunch of nods. They also won’t tell us when it changed from opting people in, then telling them they can opt out. The whole sector of email marketing platforms now depends on these lists which they claim ought to be used only for “appending” your own data or checking to make sure it’s accurate.

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Security and Trust: The Backbone of Doing Business Over the Internet
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Hell, you know these messages because I’m sure that, like me, you get them all the time. You see the little disclaimer saying, “If You don’t want to receive any more of this [garbage] send to blah, blah, blah and unsubscribe.” Hell, why should you be forced to unsubscribe from something you never subscribed to in the first place. Besides, responding to SPAM has always been a no-no as it alerts the SPAMMER that you are who they thought you were.Even though you know you didn’t subscribe in the first place, they are offering to take you off their SPAM list, or maybe just sell your info to the next guy.

What is worst, and what makes me think it’s too bad the FBI or the Homeland Security folks ought to get involved is that, like most companies, we have email addresses that aren’t assigned to anyone and have not been signed up to receive anything. These are often used for site visitors to get information about your business and might be labeled info@yourcompany.com or sales@yourcompany.com and when an executive gets copied on them, and receives some SPAM email, he knows right away they were scraped from your site. That is where they start. They use spiders to gather any and every email posted to your web site or newsletter and then they SPAM them.

This infuriating little scam is being used by many marketers today hoping you are so naïve as to think that maybe you signed up but can’t remember. It has destroyed the email channel for legitimate users who depend on the integrity of their own data to build an intelligent communications with their prospects and clients. And it isn’t just some kid tucked away in some far flung land doing it. Data companies have been mixing and matching their own data with public records and any files they can get their hands on. Now that they can tie it to the social networks, they are busy adding and appending everything from what sort of toothpaste you use, to which security technology protects your network.
It’s too bad our privacy isn’t as important as the politicians and movie stars who were ripped off because of a hole in the swiss cheese that is the AT&T networks. Love to get your own examples and happy to publish any legitimate claims you may have with SPAM and pirating of your personal information by these hooligans.

Tek-Tips

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