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Email Appending Erodes Privacy!

"Psssst! Hey buddy, check dis out over heeya. If ya give me ... of ... offline info, I'll give you email ... tomatch! Waddaya say pal? $2 per name, ... That's how it might go

"Psssst! Hey buddy, check dis out over heeya. If ya give me yer
database of customas' offline info, I'll give you email addresses to
match! Waddaya say pal? $2 per name, awright?" That's how it might go
down in a dark alley in privacy advocates' nightmare, but the reality
is that the email appending industry uses bright chirpy banter and
photos of clean-cut staffers to tell you the story. The following link
will take you to the site of a vendor who explains email appending with
Sunday-school innocence.

Email appending is big business. Here's how it works. A multinational
corporation wants to send out an email campaign to it's database of
offline customers, say those who purchased their computer printer
and filled out the warranty card and mailed it in. The problem? They
don't have the email addresses of those customers. Who ya gonna call?
Here, let's visit my favorite search engine, Google, and type "email
appending" into the search box. Click submit.

There are results 1 - 10 of about 42,300. Search took 0.05 seconds.
So much for exhaustive research. Well I suppose that if you wanted
to drag things out a bit you could do a few price comparisons. The
industry is huge and profitable.

So you want email addresses? Zip us an Excel spreadsheet of your
customers names, addresses and phone numbers and we'll send back
email addresses to match those customers with. What we won't tell
you is that we are missing a good deal of that information ourselves
and you'll be paying us to incorporate YOUR information into our
email database. If you pay us enough, we'll even tell you about those
customers lives, their taste in cars, their travel habits and their
income levels. And . . . that's not all, if you can provide us with
information on their computer system and software purchases, we'll
throw in a free recap of their credit history -- No Charge!

DoubleClick was publicly reamed for announcing they would do this
by merging the database of a direct marketing company they
acquired with their own database of email addresses and the
surfing habits of online users. They were sued, they lost millions,
they were vilified in the press. Hmmmm. Why don't we care that
42,300 others are doing the same thing?

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has introduced guidelines on the
practice. A marketing industry analyst comments in the email marketing
publication, "Opt-in News" editorialized on the self-serving nature of
the DMA's dance around the term "Opt-In" when they say:

E-mail address appending is the process of adding an individual's
e-mail address to that individual's record inside a marketer's
existing database. This is accomplished by matching the marketer's
database against a third party, permission-based database to
produce a corresponding e-mail address. I was amazed that the
organization (Direct Marketing Association) danced around privacy
issues by creating a loophole extravaganza. The document was
written by marketers for marketers, culminating in a classic
case of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

If even email marketing industry publications have strong words
for the practice of email appending, what should the public think
of the meticulous gathering of personal information by marketers
into vast databases of assembled information that the public knows
nothing about, gave no permission or consent to assemble that
information, and would likely disapprove if they did know the practice
was going on behind their back.

May 20, 2002, a financial privacy bill was defeated a second time
in California after banking and insurance industry lobbyists
contributed $5 Million toward politicians who opposed (or refused to
vote on) a bill denying them the right to trade and sell Californians
private financial information. Governor Gray Davis received nearly $1
Million ($880,000) of that amount after agreeing to veto any financial
privacy bill that crossed his desk.

Californians have some very strong privacy advocates in the California
Senate, like Senator Jackie Speier, who introduced various versions of
her financial privacy bill repeatedly, only to have banking and
insurance industry lobbyists jump in to change the outcome.

Online business is contributing dramatically to the erosion of privacy
by assembling personal, private, sensitive information about each and
every customer simply by seeking the email addresses of their customers
when they didn't receive it from the customer personally, but through
email appending services. Those services may have only had a name and
email address to match before the online business unkowingly
contributed all the data they held about their customers to the email
appending firm doing the research.

The automotive department at Sears offers up name address, phone
number, car model, make and repair history to an email appending
firm when they request customers email addresses from those appending
firms. They get the email address, but have just contributed to
further privacy erosion in order to send an email about their lube,
oil and filter change special.

The appending firm deals with a bank, a computer superstore and
a discount warehouse and now has information that was inaccessible
to them before. I could be argued that the businesses should be
paid for the information they have given up to gain the email address.
But they don't realize what they are doing in most cases. Even if
they do understand the privacy invasion involved here, they are
unlikely to care. They just want the email address to spam, erFree Articles,
market to their customers!

I wonder how much they'd charge to remove my information from all
those databases? I don't think I could afford to buy back my privacy
once you add up all the money spent to violate it.

Article Tags: Email Appending, Email Addresses, Direct Marketing, Email Address

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Mike Banks Valentine
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