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Developing e-mail-friendly solutions

Part seven of our nine-part series on managing spam.

About the book

For many companies and individuals, spam is an annoyance and undesired expense. This series excerpt from Privacy: What Developers and IT Professionals Should Know offers advice on what we can do to fight spam, how we can protecting legitimate e-mail and develop e-mail-friendly solutions.

Author J.C. CANNON, privacy strategist at Microsoft's Corporate Privacy Group, specializes in implementing application technologies that maximize consumer control over privacy, and enable developers to create privacy-aware applications. Cannon organized Microsoft's Privacy Response Center, an automated resource for tracking privacy issues throughout Microsoft. He works closely with Microsoft product groups and external developers to help them build privacy into applications. He also contributed the chapter on privacy to Michael Howard's Writing Secure Code. Cannon has spent nearly twenty-five years in software development.

Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Addison Wesley Professional.

Many companies and developers are building solutions that include a feature for sending newsletters, service updates, or marketing literature. When doing so, only collect the minimum amount of information needed to provide this service. Provide a way for your customers to opt out of these mailings. If you are bothered by the volume of e-mail that you receive on a daily basis, you can understand that customers want an easy way to manage their own e-mail. Your solution should include a way for users to manage their e-mail settings during the install process, while using the solution, and by going to your Web site.

If you provide a purely online service to customers, you should permit visitors to your site to decide whether they want to receive e-mails, including confirmation e-mails. Don't assume that your customers want to receive these e-mails. Enabling customers to look up a confirmation to an online transaction is a better long-term approach. Provide a means for customers to easily modify their e-mail settings in case they want to remove themselves from an e-mail list. Look at providing options that control how frequently customers receive e-mails. For example, consumers may only want to know about travel specials around holidays instead of every week.

Make sure that your policies on bulk e-mail are followed by agents to whom you outsource the distribution of e-mail. In addition, when you share e-mail lists with partners (with the consent of your customers only), be sure that they follow your e-mail policies.

If your company sends out bulk e-mails, be sure to register with block list companies to avoid having your e-mails flagged as spam. Although you may have a legitimate reason to send out thousands of e-mails at a time, there is no easy way for a recipient to distinguish these e-mails from spam unless you make an effort to inform the intended recipients ahead of time. Any cost associated with doing this should be offset by an increased delivery rate of your e-mails.
Next section: Protecting legitimate bulk e-mail

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This was last published in April 2005

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