The privacy policy problem, Part 3: Opting out of opting out

A look at opt-out policies in general, and one in particular

In my most recent two columns, I've been discussing privacy policies. Today I want to look at some of the issues that can occur when you work with other organizations whose policies may differ from yours.

One of the sites I investigated where interested parties could fill in a form to request information included some information on opting out of receiving junk e-mail and other unsolicited marketing materials from itself, its business partners, and anyone to whom it chose to sell enquirers’ names.

The Privacy Policy included the following information:

E-mail Opt-out Options: Each marketing e-mail We send includes instructions and an opt-out link.

Refusing Cookies: Subject to the section below pertaining to cookies and Web bugs, you have the ability to prohibit being served an advertisement based on cookie technology. We utilize reputable third-party vendors to serve advertisements. If however, you are not comfortable with cookies, you can adjust the settings within your browser to further prohibit being served a cookie. Please see the browser’s instructions to perform this task.

The National Advertising Initiative (NAI) has developed an opt-out tool with the express purpose of allowing consumers to "opt-out" of the targeted advertising delivered by its member networks. You can visit the NAI opt-out page and opt-out of this cookie tracking

Other Options: If you would like to opt-out of Our promotional marketing, and would like to contact Us, please send Us an e-mail at privacy@ .com

Most people in the security field with whom I have discussed the issue argue strongly against opting-out as an acceptable form of control over the abuse of personally identifiable information. The European Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (EuroCAUCE) has a succinct explanation of the arguments; here is my summary of the issues:

  • Opt-out schemes cannot cope with the sheer scale of spamming. Spreading e-mail addresses from one spammer to another inevitably outraces attempts to react to each new source after the fact.
  • It is impossible to ensure that permanent do-not-spam lists are consulted by spammers.
  • There is no mechanism for supervision of compliance efforts.
  • There are no enforcement mechanisms to prevent abuse.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacy

Show Comments
[]