"Where did you get my name?"

It’s not enough to require spammers to disclose their identities. Spammers, legitmate direct emailers, direct mailers, and telemarketers must be required to disclose where they got your name and how to get your name off the original list.
As a former direct marketer who still believes in the medium, I am convinced it’s time for some common sense reform of the industry. There are four things that any direct marketer should be compelled to reveal to you.

  • Seller: In many cases, marketers will have gotten your name from multiple sources and removed duplicate references. This means that they must tell you every list that your name appeared on.
  • Select: You have a right ot know what the list seller is saying about you. Direct marketers often buy a subset of a list: e.g. recent buyers, people who spent more than $100 in the last year, people who bought certain types of products, or people who are in credit trouble.
  • Source: You have a right to know how your name was acquired. Marketers must tell you the specific list you opted in to, whether your address was spidered off a web page, whether your on a list of buyers of a specific product, or if they got your name from public records.
  • Removal information: You should be given the opportunity to remove your name from the original list at the point of contact. The original list compiler should be help accountable at the time the marketing takes place and should not be able to hide behind the marketer.

How would this work in practice?
Direct email: Every message should include a footer that discloses the seller, selection, source, and removal information.
Telemarketing: If you get a call from a telemarketer, at any time during the call you may ask, “Where did you get my name?” The caller will be required to give you seller, source, select, and removal information.
Direct mail: The address label must contain a source code (it probably already contains one that only the marketer can read). The direct mail piece must tell you a web site and a telephone number where you user that source code to get seller, source, select, and removal information.
It’s time for direct marketers to tell the truth about what they’re doing and tell you how to opt out.

5 thoughts on “"Where did you get my name?"

  1. Register your own domain name for $10, and host it for $10/month. Buy a family domain so you share the cost among all your siblings.
    Use an e-mail-return-verification system to ensure that everyone contacting you for the first time is manually e-mailing you (e.g., no spammers). If by some strange luck a spammer gets through, knock him off with ease. If spammers work magic to get through on a regular basis (so, so unlikely) go ahead and change your address to start anew.
    Spammers are unable to take a foothold with me now. Screw ’em. They’ll never reach me again. I pity anyone who still gets spam.

  2. Spammers are evolving the same way that viruses evolve. They’re defeating our countermeasures. We need to get them at the root.
    Also, what I’m suggesting should lower the amount of IRL direct marketing.

  3. It seems improbable, doesn’t it?
    My goal was to get this idea into the stream and see if it evolves into a meme. The conversation over what to do about spam and privacy is still too limited for my taste. I’m all for a “free market solution”, as long as consumers have enough information and power to make the market free.

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