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One subscription should equal one unsubscription

One of the side effects of using tagged addresses to sign up for things is seeing exactly what companies do with your data once they get it.

For instance, 3 years ago I downloaded a white paper or something from an ESP. That white paper was apparently co-branded and the other company got my email address from the ESP. They’re now sending mail to that address. I unsubscribed from the ESP mail and haven’t gotten anything from them in the last 2 1/2 years.

There are multiple problems with this kind of sharing. The first is that recipients don’t know they’re giving permission for their data to be shared. Maybe it was in the fine print, but hiding permission in terms and condition isn’t real permission.

Compounding the spam is the fact that I only gave one group my email address, but I have to unsubscribe multiple times. To me, this is the same as unsubscribing from one email only to have a sender add me to a different list of theirs.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the only fair way to handle subscriptions in a truly opt-in fashion is that the number of unsubscribes necessary to stop mail should equal the number of subscribes. In my case it’s easy. Every subscription gets a unique address. When I give my address in one place, then I should be able to stop all mail to that address through a single unsubscribe.

I’m not against preference centers. If you want to add me to multiple segments or lists, all you have to do is tell me and let me choose. If you can’t do that, then take an unsubscribe request as a request to remove me from all mail. If you’re in the US, you’re required to do that under CAN SPAM and other laws.

No recipient should have to chase down every company their addresses have been shared with just to opt-out. Companies that share opt-ins for addresses should also share opt-outs. If that’s too much work for you, then how is it any less work for the recipient? You know who you’ve given the address to, I don’t. I just get to unsubscribe any time someone decides to mail the address of mine you gave them.

Otherwise, it’s all just spam.

5 comments

  1. Dave says

    Yet another problem that, like so very many, wouldn’t happen if subscriptions had to be confirmed by the recipient.

    But we should be honest here, a law that enforces such and includes a private right of action is the only real solution, and actually having to respect recipient’s rights is too scary for any corporate interest to permit.

  2. Jacob Haller says

    One version of this that I run into is that I sign up for a musician’s mailing list, then when they have a new album out I buy the album, and suddenly I get two copies of their messages: one to the address I signed up with, and the other to my paypal address. It’s very annoying.

  3. Dave says

    Another example of something that enforcing opt-in (legally, since the industry has shown to be incapable of managing itself) would solve.

  4. Neil Youngman says

    “fore and more” doesn’t seem quite right?

    1. laura says

      typo or autocorrect. fixed now.

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