Newt Gingrich's Newt 2012 organization is aiding and abetting spammers. Hard to believe, I know, but it turns out his organization is providing targeted email addresses for spammers to use. Don't let your organization make the same mistake. I'll explain all in The Long View...
By Richi Jennings.
Politicking is expensive. Running for U.S. President is extremely expensive: the Obama 2012 campaign raised $53,000,000 in March alone.
Now that Newt Gingrich has conceded defeat... ahem, sorry, suspended his campaign, his Newt 2012 organization is thought to be at least $4,300,000 in the hole, and there's little chance of raising sufficient funds to pay off that debt. That's thanks in part to Federal Election Commission rules that specify donation limits of $2,500 per supporter.
So, in a bizarre twist of moral logic, Newt 2012 is selling its email lists to spammers -- an act that's theoretically legal, but completely counter to promises it made to Newt's supporters.
When a person or organization is facing unmanageable debt, what do they do? Why, sell off some assets, of course. But what does Newt 2012 have to sell? Its database of supporters.
I'm grateful to Ken Magill for spotting this flagrant breach of privacy and ethics. Ken and I don't usually see eye-to-eye: He's an email direct-marketing advocate who often strays across the line into spammer apologia.
However, I do love his straight-talking style, and in this case, he and I are singing from the same hymn sheet:
Renting email lists is a sure path to delivery troubles. ... Email from senders who haven’t received permission from recipients to send messages to them tends to...generate spam complaints, raising the risk that ISPs will filter the email as spam.
In fact, based on my research, the situation's worse than Magill makes out. Newt Gingrich's organization is simultaneously doing two bad things:
The first bullet tells me that the organization will do all that it reasonably can do to not give anyone else my personal details. Indeed, the organization thinks it's so important, it uses the phrase twice.
Those details would of course include my email address -- why wouldn't they, unless it's specifically mentioned elsewhere? Well, the second bullet is the only mention of what the policy permits them to actually do with your email address.
In other words, the policy clearly says that the organization won't sell or rent your email address. I don't think it could be clearer, unless it had come right out and said we will not sell or rent your email address.
Sadly, as Mr. Magill discovered, they are selling their supporters' email addresses.
Frankly though, forget the moral question of whether or not the policy permits it; using sold or rented email addresses is something that only spammers do.
2. Email appending is wrong
Let's say you donate to the Newt 2012 campaign, but you decline to give them your email address (because you value your inbox-sanity). It appears that the organization can work with other sources of personal data to match your name and zip-code, and get your email address anyway.
As MAAWG, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group puts it:
“Email appending”...refers to taking known demographic information and using various methods to determine an email address for the purpose of adding people to a list or otherwise sending them email messages.
[It] is abusive...permission is not transferable...[it] is never
acceptable. ... Legitimate marketers do not engage in email appending.
This is one of those areas where Magill and I disagree. He thinks email appending can be a fine and dandy proposition, whereas I think that only spammers do it.
TL;DR: Newt loves spam...
Don't let your organization make the same mistake as Newt 2012. If you sell email addresses, you're supporting spammers. If you buy e-appended addresses, you're a spammer.
The fact that it's theoretically legal in the U.S. doesn't change anything. It should tell you something that it's illegal in most of the rest of the developed world (including Australia, Canada, and all the countries of the European Union).
What do you think? Comment below...