DMA and Return Path Partner on E-mail Authentication Registry

Some people in the direct marketing industry believe it’s only a matter of time before ISPs refuse to pass along unauthenticated commercial e-mail. Helping marketers prepare for that day is one of the goals of a free new online registry created by e-mail authentication specialist Return Path in partnership with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Authentication technology allows ISPs to verify the sources of e-mail. About three years ago, the DMA began requiring its 3,400 member companies to authenticate their outbound e-mail. The new DMA E-mail Reputation Registry is designed to help companies comply with that directive.

“A lot of people don’t understand authentication,” said Return Path Director of Corporate Communications Tami Forman. “The DMA came out with an edict to members saying, `You must authenticate your e-mail.’ That was awesome and a great stand for it to take. But just saying it doesn’t make it so.”

While ISPs currently do not require e-mail to be authenticated, they are likely to do so sometime in the future, Forman said. She noted that authentication identifies that a mail server is authorized to send the e-mails it sends.

“It’s not a silver bullet because it doesn’t speak to the quality coming off that server and there are plenty of spammers smart enough to authenticate their e-mail,” conceded Forman. “But it does prevent phishing. It knows that this server is not authorized to send, say, e-mail from ebay.com.”

The registry enables e-mail marketers to enter their company’s IP address to see if their e-mail is authenticated and, if it isn’t, what they can do to bring it into compliance with the DMA’s requirement.

Senny Boone, the DMA’s senior vice president of corporate and social responsibility, said the organization hopes companies — including those that are not DMA members — take advantage of the registry. “We were way ahead of the curve on e-mail authentication, as a trade association representing the marketing community, because we want to enhance the security of the e-mail channel,” she said. “But we understand this is a little bit difficult or daunting to some marketing professionals and we wanted to provide toolkits.”

While Boone could not provide the number of DMA members that are in compliance with the association’s authentication directive, the DMA has a Corporate and Social Responsibility Department that monitors compliance and “has seen a steady rise in the number of members whose programs are authenticated,” according to a DMA statement.

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