MAPS, Harris Interactive Put Aside Differences

It might not make for a good Hollywood epic, but the long-running dispute between the controversial anti-spam group Mail Abuse Prevention Systems and Internet polling firm Harris Interactive is at an end — with an agreement between the two to work together in the future.

According to terms of an agreement between the two, the Redwood City, Calif.-based non-profit said it would stop blocking email polls from Harris Interactive.

Through the agreement, MAPS on Friday took Harris Interactive’s email servers off its Realtime Blackhole List — which lists reported spammers’ mail servers, and which many ISPs use to help them filter out unwanted email. As a result, Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive’s email polls now will be able to get through to subscribers of ISPs that use the RBL.

Additionally, through the agreement, Harris Interactive says it will move to a double-opt-in model, in which new and existing members of the company’s seven million panel must confirm their decision to stay with the pollster.

Dan Hucko, who is vice president and director of marketing communications at Harris Interactive, said the company would soon begin asking its panelists to confirm their participation via email.

Harris generally builds its panels through agreements with list-brokers and through co-registration deals — such as with USOlympicTeam.com — in which site visitors fill out a Web poll and ask them to give their email address. Now, the company will begin asking new panel members to confirm their participation.

“During the past couple months, we were doing only confirmed opt-in … and we’ve found that confirmed opt-in panel members give us more thorough, more thoughtful responses,” Hucko said. “Its going to be good for the panel, and for our clients.”

However, the company won’t ask members that have already completed at least one survey to confirm their participation — they’re already considered to be fully opted-in, he added.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Anne Mitchell, who is director of legal and public affairs at MAPS. “It’s a win-win-win situation … the consumer wins because they get only email which they really want, the business wins because they don’t spend money sending email to people who don’t want it and they get a better rate of return with higher quality responses, and the Internet service providers win because they don’t have to spend extra money to deal with millions of pieces of unwanted email.”

The news closes a long chapter of disputes between MAPS and Harris, both of which have emerged as controversial figures in the spam debate. Following continued accusations of Harris’ delivering unwanted email, MAPS last year put the pollster on its RBL — spawning a lawsuit against not only MAPS, but also against AOL and Microsoft’s Hotmail, which used the RBL.

Several months of heated rhetoric followed, with AOL and Hotmail eventually agreeing to let Harris’s email through to their systems — but MAPS still keeping Harris on its list until Friday.

While the battle with Harris took place during the past year, MAPS also saw suits brought against it by 24/7 Media’s former email firm Exactis, Media3, CMGI’s yesmail and Black Ice. Since then, Exactis won a motion for injunction against the anti-spam non-profit, Media3 lost a similar suit, yesmail reached an agreement with MAPS and the Black Ice litigation is still pending.

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