InternetWeek recently ran a survey asking if companies ever use unsolicited commercial e-mail to market their businesses.

One in 25 of the respondents said they did.

That number refers only to those who admit spamming.

It's an ugly percentage.

I'm in contact with the chief privacy officer of one of the largest e-mail marketing companies on the Web asking to be removed from the marketing database by domain.

I want my subscriptions to remain intact. I want my hosted applications to continue undisturbed. I want to request information from online companies and to stay out of marketing databases.

This seems like a relatively simple thing to do technologically. So what makes the process of privacy protection so hugely complex?

Tools to Use
WebSite 101 recently added a privacy protection tool to our domain. It protects our database from outside access, and so far it seems like a perfect solution to keeping our subscribers' and site members' information private on a shared server.

We highly recommend it for those who value the privacy of their Web site members.

We also developed an ironclad privacy policy. The trust of your visitors is far more important than any other feature you could offer.

Immediately after the posting of our new privacy policy, we experienced an upsurge in new memberships unprecedented since the inception of our site.

Isn't it clear we all want a solution?

Bad Cop?
Many currently used solutions have some serious problems. For example, some anti-spam fanatics are getting legitimate companies shut out of their ISPs by falsely accusing them of distributing spam. They do this by running the newsletters through a service called SpamCop.

This tool is abusive and should be shut down or discredited. It extracts every domain name mentioned in the newsletter, sends e-mail to the hosts of those domains, and leaves the owners of the domains prey to knee-jerk reactions by their ISPs.

It's not uncommon that Web hosts shut down victims of these complaints without investigation.

For example, if this article were published in an anti-spam newsletter and that newsletter submitted to SpamCop, every domain mentioned within this text would be turned in to its ISP.

How effective a tool is one that indiscriminately shoots at everyone? It would shoot to kill all, including these anti-spam sites:

Guilty until proven innocent is the attitude of many service providers because they are under constant pressure from their customers and their own providers to prevent further e-mail abuses.

This has caused a new backlash by innocent merchants threatened with the closure of their online businesses as the result of spurious complaints.

Everybody is hot under the collar about spam, but no one has figured out how to stop it completely. The government debates the issue and threatens to pass stringent laws, but it hasn't figured out how.

Spam Wars
Is spam destined to join religion as one of those things we avoid discussing in polite company out of fear of brawls breaking out? I recently attended a marketing conference where the topic of spam turned a roomful of reasonable folks into sharply divided camps raging loudly at each other across the conference table.

I've just joined a spam discussion list on which many of the same emotions are raised in what otherwise seem to be reasonable folks. Everyone seems to agree there is a problem, but each has distinct ideas about what should be done.

Comparisons are constantly made to core issues of freedom of speech, gun control, product liability, totalitarianism -- and all the while nobody agrees on a solution.

Marketers should take the lead in pushing for technological solutions to unwanted e-mail before they are hit with a massive public backlash. They face complete loss of this valuable medium due to public hysteria and government overreaction.

I vote that DoubleClick, Whitehat, 24/7 Media, and their cohorts commit a bit of their thinning profits to helping solve the problem before they are wiped out by the building tsunami of public opinion.

We recently added a spam tutorial to WebSite 101.

You can read it on our site or simply adopt the following guideline: Don't spam!

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