What would the Internet be without Spam? Spam keeps mail administrators employed and gives millions of people around the world the opportunity to come together to share near universal hatred for those dastardly spammers. You can find more people – worldwide – that would favor long term prison sentences for spammers than those who supported Saddam Hussein’s execution.
John McCain thinks George W. Bush did the right thing in invading Iraq and lifting the executive order on offshore drilling put in place by Bush’s clearly smarter father. So nobody should be surprised when the GOP’s favorite “Maverick” is willing to buck the system on the issue of spamming by giving people the e-mail (he feels) they need and not just the email they want. His generous nature shows through in the way his team has made it possible to open up the spamming world to all his supporters.
After years of work on the part of ISPs in the United States it has become virtually impossible for Americans to break into spamming. Most spam now comes from China, India, South Korea, or former Soviet Bloc nations in Eastern Europe. This kind of outsourcing doesn’t seem to draw the same ire as Dell’s hiring call centers in Bangalore to handle their tech support.
John McCain has changed all that! I was going through my email earlier tonight and came across this missive from Mr. McCain with the subject “The McCain Update – August 9, 2008″. The top section looks like this.
Not only is McCain opening up the world of spamming to all his supporters, he is giving away a special limited edition red McCain campaign hat to his ten “recruiters”. Maybe one of your friends can be one of those top ten – all they have to do is show a willingness to give John McCain your email address as well as the email addresses of all their other friends, family, and colleagues.
The e-mail does not lie – it is very easy to use their “Recruit Your Friends” tool (powered by Plaxo) to hand over all your friend’s email addresses to the McCain campaign.
I played around with it using my old GMail account and the system was more than willing to let me use the McCain servers to send out an identical bulk mailing to the 485 people in my address book. I decided to give it a try using just my own address. I was curious to see what exactly would be in the email that JohnMcCain.com was going to send in my name.
Within a few minutes the message arrived in my inbox.
I know thats a big screenshot, but I wanted to include the section I circled in red. What that link tells me is that JohnMcCain.com is allowing people to opt-in to a mailing list on someone else’s behalf.
This is just wrong. At no time is it OK to allow an individual to sign up someone else for recurrent mailings. I get the John McCain mailings because I signed myself up so I could watch the kinds of information being disseminated by his campaign. I knew when I signed up that I would need to contend with the near daily requests for money or suggestions that I go view his latest campaign ads. I do not have the right to sign someone else up for that.
The e-mail does provide the opt-out link circled in red, but what it should be providing is an OPT-IN Link. I have no problem with the McCain or Obama campaign making it easy for people to share information with friends. Anyone into blogging is all about sharing and spreading information far and wide. Allowing someone to send me a single e-mail is great, allowing someone to sign me up for a series of mailings is wrong.
The McCain system should include a link that says something along the lines of “If you would like to receive additional information from John McCain, please click here.” That way people could easily decide for themselves if they would like to continue to receive campaign messages.
And about that unsubscribe link – it’s not a simple single click style unsubscribe link. It looks like this:
The e-mail is a customized message, so it would have been considerate and relatively easy to include a personalized link that would completely unsubscribe the recipient with a single click. At the very least, it could fill in your e-mail address so that people, like me, with many e-mail addresses can easily remove themselves. An easy unsubscribe method would also thrill mail administrator who are sometimes responsible for unsubscribing former employees from mailing lists.
So, if you do know which address your friend gave the campaign, you must type it in and then you must – in order to unsubscribe – provide one of four prepared reasons for wanting to get off their mailing list.
If you read those choices carefully, you can see that the first two: “I am a McCain Supporter but don’t wish to be contacted until closer to the election.” and “I am a McCain Supporter but I am receiving too many emails. Please only send me newsletters and urgent alerts.” are not actually unsubscribes at all. The first just says you don’t want mail until closer to the election and the second one says you are agreeing to get newsletters and ‘urgent alerts’.
The third choice, “I am a McCain Supporter but do not wish to receive email any longer.” sounds like it will actually unsubscribe you but you have to claim to be a ‘McCain Supporter’ in the process.
The fourth choice, “I am no longer a McCain Supporter and want to be taken off the email list.” is just plain offensive to me. This option, while better than #3 for someone like me, still asks me to claim that I DID support John McCain at some point. I did have some respect for Mr. McCain back in 2000 when he ran against G.W. Bush, and yes, I have lost all that respect since he started cozying up to the Religious Right, so it appears I can use that option and not lie but it feels like I’m squeaking out on a technicality.
Spamhaus, a leading anti-spamming organization provides this Technical Definition of Spam.
An electronic message is “spam” IF:
1. The recipient’s personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients;
2. The recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent.
By that definition, this whole process is spam since the Recruit a Friend program does not ask permission of the recipient before adding them to McCain email system and the system permits you to send an identical message to your entire address book.
I will assume that the unsubscribe system does actually work, but I have no doubt that any email address belonging to an unsubscriber will remain in the system forever.
If you are considering using this new JohnMcCain.com website feature to share your McCain love with your friends, please think carefully before you hand over your entire address book to a man who doesn’t know how to use a computer.