The ethics of opting out


Every day or so, I get a piece of spam from a site that I no longer use. Technically, I guess it’s not spam, since I did actually sign up for the site many months or even years ago, and I probably never turned off their email options. But here’s where it gets fishy: these emails don’t provide any way to unsubscribe, aside from logging into the website and changing your preferences.

I’m sure the site owners know that lots of registered users are inactive, and have no clue about their login information. By foregoing a proper “Unsubscribe” link in favor of forcing you to log in, the site virtually ensures you can’t get off their list. While this practice might be compliant with anti-spam regulations, it’s certainly not an ethical approach.

So unless you’re trying to be a spammer, always provide customers with an “Unsubscribe” link in each message, or let them unsubscribe by replying to the email. Don’t force them to log in to your site to complete the task. Otherwise, you run the risk that they’ll never be able to stop the unwanted messages, turning every one of your emails into a reminder of why they hate your company — and encouraging them to tell others how much you suck.