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Good Example of Bad Permission Management

Bill Nussey, Silverpop
by: Bill Nussey (@bnussey)
19 December 2005

Out of the blue, I got an email from the Chicago Tribune. I can't recall opting in, but I suspect I probably registered there once a upon a time to read an article.

It's probably too much to ask that the Tribune's registration page show me the date and time I actually registered. Very few emailers do that, so I wasn't too disappointed. However, the rest of its email program leaves a lot of room for improvement.

The message was a promotion informing me about a new service called Shop Local. It didn't seem particularly appealing, especially since I am not local to Chicago. I went to the bottom of the page to find an opt-out. I clicked the preference link and was disappointed to find that I had to enter a username and password in order to access my preferences. Hmm. I don't remember opting in and I really don't remember my password. So, I went through the password recall feature and eventually got into the preference page a few minutes later. The idea of having to authenticate myself before an opt-out is ridiculous, especially for a non-monetary, non-critical relationship (I just read an article once). The Tribune took 2-3 minutes of my valuable time so that I could quit getting emails I never asked for.

Moving on, another big surprise: an UNCHECKED option that said, in essence, "Check here if you don't want us to give your name to our partners." If I hadn't read it carefully, my name would have been distributed who-knows-where. Obviously, this doesn't meet the criteria for Affirmative Consent under CAN-SPAM. Moreover, it's just a really bad practice.

It's been a long time since I've seen so many old-style practices from such a respectable brand. If anyone knows the folks at the Tribune, please recommend they talk to someone in the email business who understand the implications of running a program like this. I hope the Tribune can address it before its practices get wider and less flattering attention.




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