Posted on 28 May 03
(Editor’s Note: In this article, Jeff Neilson of Storefront Owner National Marketing Services http://www.programbusiness.com/tracking/sftracker.asp?SFid=128 talks about a major problem facing everyone today – spam!) My telephone has been ringing off the hook with email broadcast marketing related questions. As an officer of a well know search engine that helps retail agencies locate markets I decided to write an article that will help educate our readers how email addresses are obtained by some list vendors and website portals. A few of the questions were to the point, while others were asked so the client or past client would be able to draw their own conclusions. Here are some examples of the type of questions that I have answered in the last few months.
Are the email address included in the programbusiness.com community permission based?
How does programbusiness.com obtain email addresses compared to other sites or email lists sold?
What type of individuals or business titles make up the programbusiness.com community?
What type of businesses make up the programbusiness.com community?
These questions led our staff to start researching how businesses that offered email address listings or email broadcast services garnered their listings. Our findings were both educational and eye opening. As a matter of fact so much that we did not have to do too much research since the US researchers at the Center for Democracy and Technology answered most these questions last summer. What they found was email addresses posted on web sites or in newsgroups attract the most spam. Spam is estimated to account for up to 40% of global email traffic and is causing a massive headache for businesses, which are losing billions in productivity according the study. To determine the source of spam, the researchers set up hundreds of different email addresses and waited six months to see what kind of mail the addresses were attracting. For the purpose of the study, researchers posted email addresses on websites and newsgroups. They also provided email addresses in response to services on popular websites such as auction site eBay and e-commerce favorite Amazon. Email addresses were also sent to web sites in response to jobs, auctions and discussion boards. Finally researchers posted addresses in the Whois database of information about the owners of the domain names. The researchers found that spammers used harvesting programs such as robots and spiders to record email address listed on both personal and corporate websites. One way of avoiding this email harvesting is to replace characters in an email address with the HTML equivalent. None of the project’s addresses written in human readable formats or HTML received a single piece of spam. Over the course of the six-month study, the researchers received 10,000 email messages to the 250 email addresses they had created. Only about 1,600 were legitimate emails. Over 97% of the spam was sent to addresses that had been posted on public websites. The number of messages received was linked to the popularity of the web sites. Organizations linked to major portals such as AOL and Yahoo received a lot more spam than those without links. AOL is currently waging its own war on spammers, recently launching over a dozen lawsuits against individuals and companies it claims is sending unsolicited mail to its members. The research also looked at whether websites respected consumer attempts to opt out of receiving commercial email. In all cases where researchers asked not to receive commercial emails, their wishes were respected. Opting out of email communications further down the line also resulte
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