[LINK] RFI: Help re SPAM Privacy Laws

Ash Nallawalla nospam@crm911.com
Mon, 17 Feb 2003 20:53:38 +1100


(Just noticed the subject line - all caps SPAM is the tinned stuff; spam
is the nasty electronic stuff)

> From: Stilgherrian

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

Agreed.

CAUCE in the US says in part in its FAQ:
http://www.cauce.org/about/faq.shtml
"As the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, we believe the
largest and most pressing problem is unsolicited commercial email (UCE).
This is not to say that unsolicited email of any content, sent once or
in bulk, isn't a part of the spam issue as a whole. CAUCE has simply
chosen to limit our efforts to UCE. This decision is mostly one of
political necessity: there is substantial concern raised by proposals
that could affect non-commercial speech. While many of us believe there
is a strong legal case to be made for treating non-commercial spam (such
as political or religious spam) no differently, today's US Congress
simply does not have the political will to go after those who cannot be
shown to be subsidizing their commercial activities on the unwilling
backs of others. Thus, CAUCE has chosen to cut off one slice of the spam
problem and address it first."

Its FAQ says in part:
""How do you define "spam"? 

The definition of "spam" is a tricky issue, with as many strongly held
opinions as many other age old questions such as "the number of angels
who can dance on the head of a pin" and "chicken versus egg." For
example, many define spam as unsolicited electronic mail sent in bulk.
Others believe "bulkness" is irrelevent, it's merely a matter of whether
the message sent was solicited. Still others debate the importance of
whether the message was commercial in nature."

Our own CAUBE (of which I am a member), says in its FAQ:
http://www.caube.org.au/whatis.htm
"What is spam?
In the case of electronic mail, spam is any electronic mail message that
is:

Transmitted to a large number of recipients; and 
Some or all of those recipients have not explicitly and knowingly
requested those messages. 
It does not matter what the content of the message is. It can be an
advertisement for a commercial product, a solicitation for donations by
a charity, or a religious pitch by somebody intent on saving your soul.
If it meets the two criteria above, it is spam.

What is UBE?
UBE stands for "Unsolicited Bulk Email". It means the same thing as
spam. "UBE" is used in formal writing, where "spam" is usually only used
in its verb and descriptive forms.

What is UCE?
UCE is spam that advertises a commercial product, service, or company.
With UCE, the sender is usually hoping to get you to spend money with
them - although senders of UCE may get their revenue from selling other
forms of advertising. The term "UCE" is used most frequently in the
United States, where constitutional restrictions are believed by many to
prevent legislation restricting other types of spam.

What is Acquaintance Spam?
Acquaintance spam is spam that is sent to you by somebody you have dealt
with previously. For example, if you order a product from a web based
merchant, you might supply your email address so that the merchant can
confirm the order, or notify you of problems. If the merchant then
starts sending you advertising material, that is acquaintance spam. Like
the name says, it's still spam, and even though legislation is not
likely to ever ban this form of spam, it can completely destroy a
business' relationship with even its most loyal customers. Our pages for
businesses teach businesses how to manage email relationships with their
customers without risking destroying those relationships."

> 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 

The example we have is NOT spam by CAUBE's definition - "large number of
recipients" is missing.  The trouble is that some recipients may not
have the clue to notice whether it was bulk or single.  On the other
side of the fence, sit well-meaning marketers whose teachers told them
to look for an opportunity and seize it.  You will read numerous
anecdotes of some kid who found a niche and made good.  Some misguided
person even invented a cute slogan "Carpe Diem" and lots of schools and
colleges adopted it as a motto to cherish and follow.  Then they collide
with the real world.

Roger's correspondent thought he was carping the diem, but he struck
someone with ulcers who probably spends a lot of time writing back to
spammers and their ISPs.  Frankly, I feel sorry for the person who ends
up working for that person.

> 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.

I agree with you.  It is not rocket science to be ethical in marketing.
I suspect that most qualified marketers know that spamming is bad; the
problem is the unknown number of self-made businesspeople who are
genuinely clueless and the handful who are plain evil.

In my last job I was responsible for emailing to tens of thousands of
people, but every one of them had opted in either as a customer, seminar
attendee or as a downloader of trial software.  (To my chagrin, over 90%
of customers were unknown because they never registered)  The company
had a sound policy: No more than 3 emails in a month to any individual;
only one of them can mention money; and not more than one email in a
week.  The only complaint I received was someone who must have been
subscribed by means of a paper form at a seminar by an adversary - the
email was one he only used for a specific newsgroup.

> 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.

Depends on how you word the form where they supply their details.  If
you give them a blank checkbox that says "Please send me product tips,
advisories, and news" you are OK, but sneaky.  If you gave them three
checkboxes for that but they did not tick the last, then you are
snookered.

- Ash

--

Ash Nallawalla, MACS
CRM and Lead Management Consulting
http://crm911.com/