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Help Stop Do Not E-Mail

  |  March 29, 2004   |  Comments

The request for public comments on the proposed Do Not E-Mail Registry is about to close.

After March 31, there's nothing left to say about a national Do Not E-Mail (DNE) Registry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants public comments by that date, before it submits its recommendation to Congress as to whether such a registry should be created.

(You have until April 12 to comment on other aspects of the CAN-SPAM Act.)

Last May, I heard Sen. Schumer introduce his concept of a national DNE Registry at the FTC's Spam Forum. I outlined concerns, all valid today, detailing why such a registry would be fraught with problems.

Time to Act

The FTC wants your input on the establishment of a national DNE Registry now. No matter how large or small your business or messaging volume, this ruling will affect your email efforts.

Why should you respond to the FTC?

  • Consumers (correctly) view the Do Not Call Registry as an effective solution to their dinnertime woes. They don't view DNE any differently.

  • It's a major election year. Many representatives, such as Sen. Schumer, will trumpet this issue on the campaign trail. The FTC needs a well-crafted report to combat political platforms.

  • During the Do Not Call Registry comment period, over 64,000 public comments were filed, most in support of the registry. Every voice counts.

Key Position Points

Following are some top-line concerns with a DNE registry:

  • Most spammers won't adhere to the registry. CAN-SPAM enforcement is only now beginning, and tracking down the majority of spammers is difficult. The registry will create a near-impossible enforcement environment.

  • The registry significantly risks being compromised and used to spam. There are numerous ways the data could be obtained by unscrupulous emailers. Once compromised, the registry can't be re-secured.

  • A domain-wide suppression option could potentially kill legitimate email marketing. A proposed option is for all domain owners to submit their domains for commercial email exclusion. Such a process would be fraught with misuse. If implemented at the ISP level, this could curtail significant amounts of legitimate email.

  • The proposal contains no exemptions for preexisting business relationships. An exemption for email desired by recipients is necessary to ensure the continued efficacy of email communications.

  • Consumers would have false hopes about less spam. The registry would lead to millions of frustrated consumer complaints but no solution. The FTC would waste resources dealing with complaints rather than enforcing more important aspects of the law.

  • A preemption clause should be considered to ensure state DNE registries aren't created.

Give Self-Regulation a Chance

A few months ago, there was no end to spam in sight. Today, it may be in view. The Internet's open architecture remains the root of the problem. Yet proposals set forth by Microsoft, Yahoo, and others considered by the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF's) Anti-Spam Research Group are potentially easily implemented steps that focus on spam rather than dedicate resources to filter legitimate email. If any or all of these proposals are rolled out in the next year, managing messaging that's not identified or authenticated could be as easy as managing postal mail.

Technology can and will solve this problem. There's no need for a federal registry. Give us the time and resources, and email can be saved.

You can file your comments online.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Isaacson

Ben Isaacson is the privacy and compliance leader for Experian, overseeing Internet and advanced technology privacy and compliance affairs across Experian Marketing Services products including CheetahMail, Digital Advertising Services, and Hitwise. Mr. Isaacson's previous roles include serving as the executive director of the Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM), a former DMA subsidiary. He regularly blogs at EmailResponsibly.com.

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