[LINK] RFI: Help re SPAM Privacy Laws

Stilgherrian contour@prussia.net
Mon, 17 Feb 2003 18:37:13 +1100

At 17:49 +1100 17/2/03, Craig Sanders wrote:
>On Mon, Feb 17, 2003 at 03:28:19PM +1100, Roger Clarke wrote:
>>  Maybe someone else can offer a better, or enhanced, answer to this
>>  question.
>my answer would be "you spammed, shut up and go away".

I actually disagree that there's been spam here, because there 
doesn't appear to have been a "mass mailing".

If I read the original question correctly, someone who's running a 
business made contact with another business which might be able to 
use his services -- based on knowing that the "target" business used 
some specific product by reading about it in an advertisement. And 
the "target business" went into a "How dare you!" response as a 
*first* step, making threats about ORB listings and so on.

Now before the people who don't take their tablets regularly start 
claiming I'm some sort of apologist for spammers, let me reassure 
them that I get annoyed with unwanted email messages too. 
Particularly if they're promoting the unlikely enlargement of body 
parts I don't even possess, business services that I can't possibly 
use because I'm not American, or riches beyond my wildest dreams.

But I still think it should be acceptable for a business to initiate 
contact with another business or, yes, even an individual in order to 
introduce their services. I don't think it's reasonable to limit a 
business' marketing activities to passively waiting for the customers 
to roll in. We're not limited in that way offline -- a new plumber in 
the area can drop a note in my letter box telling me he can fix my 
pipes 24 hours a day -- and so I believe we should be able to do the 
equivalent online.

Plus I don't think there's much wrong with, say, getting back in 
touch with a previous customer to see if there's anything more we can 
help them with.

Now that said, if someone replies by saying "Sorry, I'm not 
interested," then they should stop sending email to that person. It's 
just plain rude to continue in the face of a specific request to stop.

It'd be interesting to know just how our original correspondent 
worded his/her communication.

If it was along the lines of "Hi, I saw your advert and noticed that 
you use Software Package X for Windows. I happen to supply that, so 
if you ever need more copies please get in touch. Orv if you like, I 
can email you our catalog?" then I'd consider that a reasonable 
approach. Here's a business which has noticed what I do and has 
communicated with me individually.

But if it was an email headed "Software Package X Specials!!!" that 
looked like it was just some mass mailout, with half a megabyte of 
imagery attached, then I'd probably be annoyed.

Similarly, approaching a previous customer six months later with a 
brief message is fine. But dumping my product catalog at them every 
month without any individual attention is just lazy and probably *is* 

I'm not sure exactly where I want to draw the fuzzy dividing line 
between legitimate communication and spam. But I *do* know that the 
"mere" fact that a communication was "unsolicited" (i.e. initiated by 
the seller or provider of services) is, in and of itself, NOT a 
reason for banning it.

So in the specific case described, without knowing the content of the 
sender's original email, I'd tend to think that the recipient was 

(Who's received 774 spams so far this month, but hasn't
yet felt the urge to slaughter anyone. I think I'll save
that kind of wrath for more important issues. *winks*)

Stilgherrian <contour@prussia.net>
Internet, IT and Media Consulting, Sydney, Australia. ABN 25 231 641 421
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