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Old Lists and RadioShack

RadioShack is putting their assets up for sale including more than 65 million customer records and 13 million email addresses. Many are up in arms about the sale of personal data including the Texas Attorney General and AT&T who both want the data destroyed.
Part of the controversy is that RadioShack’s privacy policy states the collected data will be only used by RadioShack and its affiliates and that they will not “sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time”. Company acquisitions happen all the time and data like this is often sold to the new owner and the sale of customer data is common. The problem with RadioShack selling the customer data is that their privacy policy states they will never sell the information.
RadioShack was one of the first companies to ask for personal information at checkout, sometimes refusing a sale without providing it and the collection of data during checkout caught on quickly. Having demographic information for retargeting of customers is extremely valuable to marketers, but only if it’s valid data. With RadioShack, people often lie about their zip code and if they are giving incorrect zip codes I’m pretty sure their email address isn’t going to be valid either. Even Kramer asks why does RadioShack ask for your phone number…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgfaYKoQxzQ
If a client asked if this was a good investment and if the list had value, I would tell them no. Sending to this list will have poor delivery because the data is dirty and the lack of a clear opt-in is going to be problematic especially since a RadioShack customer is not expecting to receive mail from you. Many ESPs have policies prohibiting sending to a purchased list and doing so will hurt your relationship with the ESP.
If a client had already purchased the list and wanted to send to it, I would tell them their reputation is going to take a significant hit and I would discourage them from sending. The list is going to be full of domains that no longer exist and contain abandoned email addresses including ones that have been turned into spam traps.
When preparing to send to a new list of email addresses, I go through this process:

  1. Do I have permission to email these addresses?
  2. Do they want my email?
  3. Are they expecting my mail?
  4. Do you have a game plan for segmenting the list and sending?

Just because you can email someone doesn’t always mean that you should. If my client insisted they were going to send to the list and asked how they can limit the risk, I would want to send an opt-in request to the addresses over the course of several days watching for throttling and rejections. Only those users who confirmed the opt-in will be mailed to going forward

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