I use the Web to spy on my competition, and in turn, I expect them to spy on me. I’m not naïve enough to think that the Web is private. A quick look at all the Facebook privacy issues and a search on Twitter would cure any preconceptions on that matter.
But for me, the lines get blurred on email. At what point should we expect privacy when it comes to our email, and at what point does a received email become “our” property?
Recently, I was sent an unsolicited email from someone who was using an automated email marketing solution, and a whole bunch of issues on privacy and expectations came flooding back to me.
The email marketing product in question was one I had used years earlier -- and one that truthfully kind of bothered me with all the info they collected from the recipient who opens the email. At the time I decided that it was not for me, as I felt my clients would be upset if they ever found out how their information was used.
This leads me to my email pet peeves. If I don’t know you, don’t send me a blanket email asking for money for your son or daughter’s band trip to Europe. Don’t put my email on a mailing list just because we connected on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter! Finally, my BIGGEST: Don't monitor what emails I did read, forward, and/or the time I spent on something you sent me that I might have found interesting enough to read. It’s my email once I get it, and if you want to know what I do with it, ask me.
With a lot of the email marketing products, this is exactly what they do, but they don’t ask. They report back a bunch of stats (which vary from program to program) about who opened, blocked, forwarded (and to whom, where it starts again), how long they spent with the email open, how many times they opened it, the operating system, email program, and more. All without the reader’s acceptance to share any information.
I was having one of those days, and so I opted out and finally put the keyword block on for the offending “solution.” I tweeted this, and the reaction (or lack there of) was kind of surprising. Folks liked the offender and the marketing solution they offered! They liked being able to add people without an “opt-in”! They didn’t really care about all the data that was sent without the reader knowing or allowing.
I was blown away. Aren’t we the same folks that get peeved when Facebook uses our data and info without our knowledge?
A friend emailed about why I took the actions I did, as she was about to recommend the same solution to one of her clients. I explained my feelings on opt-in and having people know exactly what info they are giving to someone else, rather than not telling or hiding it. She is reconsidering her recommendation now. I felt a little better about her reconsideration, though I know it’s probably too tempting for the marketing client… and if they don’t do it, their competition will.
So, here I am. Feeling like a lone crusader once again. Feeling that if we knew all the info that was being collected with those fancy HTML emails (and I know I don’t know what the “all” is) we would be darned upset.
Maybe not… I know my solution for now is to block certain company keywords -- maybe next it will be HTML.
— Scott Westerlaken is a marketing and media creation specialist with the PHI Group in Halifax, Nova Scotia.