Re: AM: email marketing; opt-in or out?
On Mon, 12 Jan 1998, Andrew Forbes wrote:
> I think there is a difference between using publicly available
> demographic data, and profiles built by monitoring people's
> Internet usage. Your comments below seem to indicate that
> you believe AOL will build profiles by monitoring the Internet
> activities of their users. Is this what you think they would do?
There are shades of gray: as I understand the situation today, AOL does
some anonymizing of demographic data internally, so that, for example,
planners of new services can know that 40% of visitors to the bowling chat
area procede directly to the pizza & pretzels forum... w/o knowing that
it's user Ross or user Andrew, that aggregate trend info is still useful.
But they could be far more adventurous with customer data, and not run
afoul of any statutory restrictions. Though I have no idea what current
practices might be.
> Let's say that the worst fears of the privacy advocates come
> true, and all ISPs start logging all IP traffic. How would users
> fight back? And is there a business opportunity in resisting the
> onslaught of data collection for marketing purposes?
More disclaimer: I spent six years as an IT analyst at the CIA, and as a
technology policy type guy with the Intelligence Community Management
Staff... *and* have served on the program committee of the Computers,
Freedom & Privacy conference. So I've given these sorts of issues some
thought (and only seldom get any pangs of concern that I ought to have
sought out the publications review people at the Agency before shooting my
mouth of in opinion on 'em :-).
Some privacy mechanisms do exist, e.g., the anonymizing Web site (where
you feed the URLs you're interested in to a script on a site that then
itself fetches & displays content, masking your demographic info), and
various anonymous remailers. The most famous of the anonymous remailers,
run by Julf Helsingius (now working for EUNet, I believe), was also the
subject of one of the more famous breach-of-privacy cases of the last
couple of years: the Finnish government (the remailer was physically
located there) required that he surrender the identity of one of his
users, pursuant to a claim made by the Church of Scientology (that an
ex-member was abusing copyrighted materials using his service). To this
day I wonder how they could guarantee that the name he forked over
actually matched the one that had been registered ("Uh, yeah, 'NasteeBoy'
is really 'email@example.com'...").
Where I personally think the future growth market will be re privacy is in
the area of mechanisms for managing identity, and authority. What will
solve the spam problem, for example, is when all of us have the means to
admit or reject correspondence based on senders' identities... not just
"user X is Andrew Forbes, who's on the 'ok' list," but the same sort of
sets and classes as we're starting to see with Web sites, and the ratings
schemes. I would be able to have a gatekeeper that allowed anyone with a
"Netpreneur in good standing" rating to reach me... Mario's people would
in turn only award such tokens to non-bozos, presumably! Companies would
similarly accord their employees tokens signed with their corporate key,
and services would provide guide data for me to be able to filter "known
respectible Net marketing companies" (like DoubleClick or Imgis) from
"known spammers" (Cyberpromo, say). And authority ought to be
transferable...I should be able to give some other user a single-use token
to be used to get the ear of someone who would otherwise welcome a contact
from me: "Please read this user's E-mail... she's got an idea I think you
While we've inherited a grand, flat Internet from the Old Ones (still hard
to believe that all of this wildly growing commercial Net is just a few
years into this stage of its life), we'll need to remap it as a very "real
world"-like terrain of gatekeepers, authorities, privileges, and
restrictions to make it really responsive to our need to separate the
wheat from the chaff.
Ross Stapleton-Gray TeleDiplomacy, Inc.
firstname.lastname@example.org 2503 Columbia Pike, Suite 118
Director, Electronic Embassy Program Arlington VA 22204
http://www.embassy.org +1 703 685-5197 / 5257 fax