Mailing List Spam

The amount of mailing list spam I’ve been getting has been steadily increasing with a huge jump in the last few months.  I was perplexed by it – this isn’t real spam (they are all opt-in mailing lists – many of which I recognize the associated organization.)  However, I hadn’t opted-in to any of the lists!

Some were political lists, some were technology lists, and some were random things.  As the election got closer, the political ones increased.  Today, as I was hitting delete over and over again I realized that I must have been on a seed list that got passed around between organizations.  This is a pretty typical spam thing and gets 99.999% blocked by Postini (my anti-spam system), but until recently I hadn’t connected the dots on it from legitimate opt-in emails since I actually want to get the emails I’ve opted in to.

Specifically, any mailer who understands CAN-SPAM and cares about reputation won’t share their lists this way.  At the minimum, I’d get an opt-in request from the new list which – while not great – is at least tolerable.  This phenomenon isn’t limited to the political lists – I’ve been noticing it more broadly across all the tech email lists.

In addition, it appears that I’m getting added to email lists whenever I give someone my business card.  I find this particularly annoying for all the non-profit organizations that I’m involved with.  My reaction to getting email spam from them is negative, which I presume is the exact opposite of how they want me to react.  While this practice doesn’t actually violate CAN-SPAM, it’s definitely in the category of "bad email practices" in my book. 

We’ve been involved in this arena as investors for a long time with both Postini (on the email security side – now part of Google) and Return Path (on the email deliverability side).  I’m really proud of each of these companies – they’ve both created real businesses helping eliminate bad email and insure that good email gets through to the inbox. 

Fred Wilson just wrote a long post on why his firm – Union Square Ventures – recently invested in Return Path.  After thinking about my mailing list spam issue, I think we are going to have another major iteration of spam dynamics that we’ll have to address and Return Path continues to be extremely well positioned to do it.

BTW – do you want to Simplify The Season with Dell Small Business?  Unsubscribe.  Delete.