2014-14-May-Pawn-Shop.jpgHow much would it cost me to buy your name and email address? You probably don’t have a figure in mind but you negotiate the worth of your personal information every time you submit a website form.

Each time you click that Submit button, submit is exactly what you do. Your personal information is sucked into some computer where you become a “prospect.” You hope the collecting organization won’t spam you or worse, sell your information to other companies. But companies don’t ask for data they don’t intend to use.

There is a chance your data will be used for nothing more than statistics: How many people 35 or older download this -- that sort of thing. There is also a chance that your data will rot in some CRM, dormant forever. But the better chance is that your data will be used to “funnel” you through a sales pipeline, “nurturing” you until you pony up some cash or opt yourself out.

The Illusion of Control

“Easy opt-out” messages are used to convince us that the pain will be bearable and that we are in charge of how long it will last. And though some opt-out processes truly are painless, others can feel more like disguised opt-ins that collect even more data.

Then we have the “you are receiving this email because you asked for it” messages. But you know what, savvy marketer? I didn’t ask for it. You either don’t know how to run your marketing automation system or you’ve illegally opted me in. Either way, you’re an idiot.

It’s gotten so bad that there are now laws on the books of many countries that aim to protect consumers from the list-drunk marketing industry. Some regulations require double opt-in confirmation before anyone can be added to a list. Others merely require that email recipients be able to easily opt-out of all communications. One law that recently made some noise in Australia warns businesses that they may not collect any personal information that is not absolutely necessary for the immediate transaction.

The problem with these regulations is that they are weak, at best. When unsolicited email arrives, are you really going to file a law suit? Companies know they have some time before things become really serious, so few scramble to get with the new program. This is compounded by marketing automation and emailing services that simply aren’t prepared to deal with regulations that vary according to region. After all, when an email address ends with @gmail.com, who’s to say which laws apply?

Vote with Your Back Button

This battle will not be won in the courts -- this battle will be won by consumers who refuse to click that Submit button when the information transaction seems unreasonable. Keep in mind that while that white paper is something you’ll read only once, your email address is something that offers a lifetime of marketing value to its collector. Further, a valid email address is worth much more than the fluff many companies try to pass off as “educational content.”