Pan-Am Internet Services

Double Opt-In, Confirmed Opt-In, What's the Difference?

27 JUL 2002 by Gordon Fecyk, Pan-Am Internet Services

KELLY THOMPSON OBSERVED an important stumbling block in our fight to stop e-mail abuse, quoted from the SPAM-L mailing list:

I don't care what method people devise to make sure that people don't get added to a mailing list without their consent, so long as it actually works. I don't care if they call it "sucking chest wound" so long as the process they adopt effectively prevents abuse. Dogma and jargon should never be more important than stopping spam.
Dogma and jargon are a major stumbling block because anti-spammers and marketers speak different languages.

Dogma and jargon are a major stumbling block. We talk about Opt-In on the Internet and they compare it with what they already know about Opt-Out in the real world. What they come up with isn't even close to what we want, so we try again. And then they conclude we're asking for too much and call it Double Opt-In.

WE SPEAK DIFFERENT LANGUAGES even though we use the same words. Hm, I wonder if Dr. John Gray would have any insights. I see a new book coming: Geeks are from Mars, Marketers are from Venus. It'll be a best seller one day, I tell you, right next to O-Reilly's Stopping Spam.

Anti-spammers are never going to fully understand the marketing mindset. We will never understand why they treat our e-mailboxes with such disrespect. Marketers are never going to fully understand the geek mindset. They'll never understand why we don't want to read about their better mouse traps, after all they could make our lives So Much Easier if we just bought their product. Are we anti-commerce that we don't want to hear what they have to say?

You'll notice that I made no mention of how their spam costs us money. That's a concept that, even after eight years, they just don't understand because they're not wired the same way we are. And that's where we get hung up on our dogma and jargon. As frustrated as we are with marketers, they are just as frustrated with us. And so began of Cold War of E-mail.

Marketers understand what fraud means. Did you ever try to explain to a marketer that you're only trying to avoid fraud?

LET'S APPROACH THIS from a marketer's point of view. Say we have an individual committing fraud by pretending to be someone else in order to take unfair advantage. They already understand what this means in the real world - people get arrested for it. So it's in their best interest to avoid such things as false signatures, false social security numbers, false credit card numbers. They use verification services like Versacheck and Checkcare. They look up social security numbers in federal databases. They verify signatures and credit card numbers with whomever they opened their merchant account. They already know what it means to verify critical information.

Now think of yourself as a customer of one of these marketers and they insist that you come into their store to hand-sign the credit card receipt, rather than just take the card number and expiry date over the phone. Isn't that really inconvenient for you? Isn't it so much more work to get in your car and drive to the store just because they don't believe you? And why are they checking your signature on that receipt with the signature on your card?

There are many other real world examples, but now you're beginning to understand what you're asking the marketers to do. You're asking them to approach you with no guarantee of a subscription, so you can verify their critical information. It's in your best interest to have them do this so you're not a victim of fraud, and possibly have your postage-due mailbox filled with spam. Ask yourself: Did you ever explain to a marketer that you're only trying to avoid fraud?

IT DOESN'T MATTER how you try to avoid fraud or what technological (or real world) measures they decide on to help you avoid fraud, and it doesn't matter if they call it Double Opt-In or Verified Opt-In or Versacheck or even Sucking Chest Wound. If they're helping you prevent e-mail address fraud they're saving you from a ton of spam. Don't get hung up on jargon.

I have to hand it to Kelly. She has a way with words, being a journalism major and all.

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