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Opt-in lists and supposedly Opt-in lists

In a free market economy it's expected that companies may wish to ask you if you are interested in buying all sorts of stuff. They may send out spam (unsolicited bulk e-mail), which can be unsolicited. This is a bit annoying sometimes, but what's much more annoying is when the senders tell lies such as "this is not spam" or "this is never sent unsolicited" or "you have opted-in to receive this". That is SO ANNOYING! I'd be happier if they honestly stated "This is junk-email which were sending to you just on the offchance that you might be interested", or something of that ilk. I don't mind it being unsolicited, provided I can REPLY! (see definition of spam).

Anyway, what is OPT-IN? To be properly opt-in, you've got to have requested it. If you order something, then it's opt-in. To count as opt-in, you have to have had the intention of applying for it and given your consent. Opt-in lists do exist. You're welcome to opt-in to Zyra's Circular Newsletter List if you like. Most reputable companies run an e-mail list which is genuinely opt-in.

I don't think it's vitally important that any particular list be opt-in, as long as it's described properly. It's the lying which is the problem, not the "unsolicited" aspect.

Here are a few examples of attempts to convince the recipient that the e-mail is opt-in when it isn't:

This e-mail is not unsolicited. Your privacy is extremely important to us.. As a leader in permission-based email marketing, we are committed to delivering a highly rewarding experience, with offers that include bargains, valuable coupons, and entertainment! If you no longer wish to receive emails from us, please see below. Thank you.

You are subscribed as: spam.harvested.address@domain

This lie was sent as part of the spam messages which came from optin-proservers.com , also known as Torpedomail. The spam was sent to many dozens of addresses which were harvested from this site. This optin-proservers.com business makes a claim to have millions of opt-in e-mail addresses. If you are considering advertising using this, beware! It's NOT OPT-IN! It is in fact an excuse to send spam, and to advertise it as opt-in is misdescription!

Now, some might say "well, you can unsubscribe, so it must be opt-in". This is not true. For one thing, such opting-out makes it an OPT-OUT list, not an OPT-IN list. Plus, it is impractical for one person to manually unsubscribe four hundred e-mail addresses. Further note: On unsubscribing a few sample addresses, spam continued to arrive to them. In the case of Badoo Spam, it's not opt-in, and you have to log into a fake account which they have created for you, and delete it, in order to stop receiving the spam.

To sum this up, if you receive messages claiming to be opt-in, look upon it with suspicion! More importantly, if you're a business hoping to advertise using "opt-in" e-mail marketing, BEWARE! It often is not opt-in. It is spam! If you advertise this way, YOU are guilty of sending spam, so please don't do it.

Here's another example:

As a valued customer we are writing to inform you of our latest offers available at factory direct prices. You are on our list because you or an aquaintance has submitted your email address to our opt-in only listing if you feel your email address has been submitted in error or if you simply wish to have your address removed please click the following link and your address will be permanantly deleted from our records <address>

Now this one was from a company selling a product which I was interested in buying. But when I replied to say yes please tell me more, it bounced! I managed to phone the people involved, and was quite surprised to find the proprietor of the company actually BELIEVED the list to be opt-in! It was clearly harvested, as could be seen by the inclusion of hundreds of addresses which only existed on my own website. After some discussion it turned out that the company's e-mail system had the policy that if anyone ever sent an e-mail to them and signed it with a website URL address, then the robot would visit that site and harvest every e-mail address on the site, and then the whole lot would be made out to be "opt-in"! Now obviously that's all wrong, and I could go on about it, but what's notable about this case is that the owner of the list, whose robot was harvesting everyone's e-mail address, was not an evil person, but someone who had been misled into believing the system was fair and reasonable when in fact it was a monstrous spam-sending system.

Here's another example:

You have opted in to one or more of our affiliate sites requesting to be notified of any special offers; this is NOT unsolicited email.

Well, it definitely WAS UNSOLICITED MAIL! The place in question was sending a number of random harvested addresses. The fact that there was a lie in the message meant that the products and services being offered were brought into question. Would you buy from someone who you knew was telling untruths? No resolution was found on this, as the sender refused to accept replies. This in itself suggests something wrong! If they don't accept replies, it's spam

Here's another one, this time via checkyourinbox.com advertising some cable TV cracking system:

This e-mail is not unsolicited. Your privacy is extremely important to us.. As a leader in permission-based email marketing, we are committed to delivering a highly rewarding experience, with offers that include bargains, valuable coupons, and entertainment! ; If you no longer wish to receive emails from us, please see below.

[harvested address]

It would, of course, be impossible to opt-out of their bogus opt-in list, as they sent to so many different addresses which were harvested. Also, as an extra insult, the opt-out system had pop-up advertisements.

Here's another bogus "You have opted-in" disclaimer...

We are strongly against sending unsolicited emails to those
who do not wish to receive our special mailings. You have opted
in to one or more of our affiliate sites requesting to be notified
of any special offers we may run from time to time. We also have
attained the services of an independent 3rd party to overlook list
management and removal services. This is NOT unsolicited email.
If you do not wish to receive further mailings, please visit the
link below be removed from the list. Please accept our apologies
if you have been sent this email in error. We honor all removes
requests. Submit your remove request at: Click here

...again on an e-mail sent to a HARVESTED address. This particular one was advertising Norton anti-virus, who I'm sure will be pleased to see the forwarded headers. What's ironical about all this is that if the spam-senders had not put that untrue statement on the end, they'd have not been in such trouble!

And then there's this:

You are recieving this email because you are a member at freeraffle.us. We have your signup and confirmation ip on file! Get off here Please allow upto 7 days to be removed.

...which was sent to numerous e-mail addresses which were harvested and definitely not opted in! And there was a stupid pop-up (see how to defeat pop-ups), and the "get off here" link was completely bogus, as were abuse@ addresses. Whatever it was they were selling, some kind of mortgage offer, should be measured against this level of honesty in the spam description. Also see mortgage misspelt in e-mail subject

And how about this blatant LIE!?:

About this mailing:
You are receiving this e-mail because you subscribed to MSN Featured Offers. Microsoft respects your privacy. If you do not wish to receive this MSN Featured Offers e-mail, please click the "Unsubscribe" link below. This will not unsubscribe you from e-mail communications from third-party advertisers that may appear in MSN Feature Offers. This shall not constitute an offer by MSN. MSN shall not be responsible or liable for the advertisers' content nor any of the goods or service advertised. Prices and item availability subject to change without notice.

?2008 Microsoft | Unsubscribe | More Newsletters | Privacy

Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052

...which was sent to various ill-gotten e-mail addresses which had never had anything to do with MSN. Some of them had been stolen when an affiliate marketing company had a breach of database security. The message itself had no valid content apart from an advert for viagra and other pills, and those links did not go to any kind of "unsubscribe" but to exactly the same Chinese site. Now, if they've lied about the unsubscribe, and they've lied about being Microsoft, doesn't it make you wonder if they're telling the truth about the non-fakeness of the drugs on sale? See fake drugs?

To sum it all up, if you want to send spam, at least be honest about it!

Further note: If you receive a spam message claiming to be opt-in, don't just report it to the ISP and the sender, report it to the company being advertised. They are often very pleased to hear from you, and are often quite shocked to find the people doing their advertising were sending spam on their behalf!