Network Working Group T. Gavin
Request for Comments: 3098 Nachman Hays Consulting
FYI: 38 D. Eastlake 3rd
Category: Informational Motorola
How to Advertise Responsibly Using E-Mail and Newsgroups
or - how NOT to
$$$$$ MAKE ENEMIES FAST! $$$$$
Status of this Memo
This memo provides information for the Internet community. It does
not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Distribution of this
memo is unlimited.
Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001). All Rights Reserved.
This memo offers useful suggestions for responsible advertising
techniques that can be used via the internet in an environment where
the advertiser, recipients, and the Internet Community can coexist in
a productive and mutually respectful fashion. Some measure of
clarity will also be added to the definitions, dangers, and details
inherent to Internet Marketing.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction .............................................. 2
2. Image and Perception of the Advertiser..................... 4
3. Collateral Damage ......................................... 5
4. Caveat Mercator ........................................... 5
5. Targeting the Audience .................................... 7
6. Reaching the audience ..................................... 8
A. Dedicated website or web page ........................ 8
B. "Shared" Advertising website ......................... 9
C. Netnews and E-Mailing list group postings ............ 10
D. Compiled E-Mail Lists ................................ 11
7. Opt-In Mailing Lists ...................................... 12
A. Privacy ................................................ 13
B. Integrity .............................................. 13
C. Protection ............................................. 16
8. Irresponsible Behavior .................................... 16
9. Responsible Behavior ...................................... 17
10. Security Considerations ................................... 19
Appendices .................................................... 20
A.1 The classic Pyramid .................................... 20
A.2 What about Ponzi? ...................................... 22
A.3 So all multi-levels are evil? .......................... 22
B.1 Why Web Privacy? ....................................... 23
References .................................................... 25
Authors' Addresses ............................................ 26
Acknowledgments and Significant Contributors ................. 27
Full Copyright Statement ...................................... 28
The Internet is not a free resource. Access to and a presence on the
'Net comes at a cost to the participants, the service provider, and
the recipients of those services made available by the Internet. The
more readily available internet has allowed users access to an
unprecedented number of people. Due to the rapid growth and
"mainstream" acceptance of the 'Net, new opportunities have been
found for the distribution of information to the vast and ever-
growing community of Internet users. There are groups and
individuals who choose to use the 'Net for purposes for which it was
not intended, thus defying the consensus among both the practitioners
and the unwilling recipients. The aforementioned practice, of
course, is the sending of Unsolicited Commercial and Bulk E-Mail
messages, posts to Netnews groups, or other unsolicited electronic
communication. This condition has caused an awakening on the part of
the Internet community-at-large.
There are stereotypes that must be broken before continuing. Not all
persons who are new to the Internet are ignorant of the 'Net's
history and evolution, or its proper and ethical uses. Nor are all
experienced, long-term Netizens against the use of the Internet for
advertising, marketing, or other business purposes. Where these two
groups can find commonality is in their opposition to the use of the
Internet in irresponsible ways. Some of these irresponsible uses
include, but are not limited to, the sending of Unsolicited Bulk or
Commercial E-Mail to mailing lists, individuals, or netnews groups.
In the vernacular, this activity is called "spamming" (the sending of
"spam" ). To understand why such activities are irresponsible,
one must first understand the true cost and ramifications of such
The protocols and architecture upon which the 'Net is built, which
are recognized and adhered to as standards, provide for an openness
and availability which foster and encourage easy communication.
These standards were developed at a time when there was no need to
consider the concept of "rejecting" information. While those
standards have evolved, they continue to emphasize open
communication. As such, they do not associate costs or impact with
the user-initiated activities which may occur. Because of this
openness, persons can and do send large volumes of E-Mail, with
little-to-no cost or financial impact for the volume of messages
sent. Needless to say, this presents the attractive option (to those
who would consider such activity) of multiplying the recipients of
their marketing material, and presumably, increasing their success-
rate. However, and to reiterate an earlier statement in this text,
there is a cost to be incurred at some point in this communication
relationship. In the case of E-Mail advertising, since the cost of
operation does not increase on the part of the sender, it must
therefore increase on the side of the recipient.
And it does. Every recipient of every E-Mail message bears a cost,
either direct (cost per message received, an incremental increase in
connection charges) or indirect (higher service fees to recoup
infrastructural costs associated with the additional 'Net traffic
which such mass-mailings create). In addition, other resources, such
as the disk space and time of the recipient, are consumed.
Because the recipients have no control over whether or not they will
receive such messages, the aforementioned costs are realized
involuntarily, and without consent. It is this condition (the
absence of consent to bear the costs of receipt of a mass-
distributed message) that has shaped the Internet Community's
viewpoint - that the act of sending spam constitutes a willful theft
of service, money, and/or resources. Those who choose to ignore the
financial impact, and instead focus on the consumption of indirect
resources, have been known to label spam "Internet Pollution".
The Internet provides a tremendous opportunity for businesses, both
large and small. There is certainly money to be made using the 'Net
as a resource. This paper recommends practices and ways to use the
Internet in manners which are not parasitic; which will not, by their
mere existence, engender predetermined opposition, litigation, or
other negative conditions. This paper does not guarantee freedom
from those, or other negative responses - rather, it provides the
reader with a framework through which the marketer/advertiser and the
'Net community (and more importantly, the seller's target market) can
coexist as well as possible.
2. Image and Perception of the Advertiser
While it may appear to be financially attractive to advertise via the
use of Mass-Messaging ("spam"), as a responsible Internet user,
ADVERTISERS SHOULD AVOID THIS OPTION. The possibility of income
generation and market or business expansion are minuscule when
compared to some of the risks:
- The alienation of the vast majority of the recipients
of an advertising message 
- The damage or loss of credibility in the advertisers
- Loss in advertiser's and/or seller's Internet
connectivity (most service providers have strict
"zero tolerance" policies which prohibit the use
of their systems for the sending of spam, or
for encouraging or enabling such activities)
- Civil and Criminal litigation. In the United States,
(and progressively in other sovereign states), it has
become accepted as fact that the theft-of-service
associated with spamming often constitutes an
unlawful use of private property and is actionable
as trespass to chattels (a civil law term
tantamount to "theft") in civil court 
It is a fundamental tenet to any Internet presence that a party will
be responsible for their Internet "image", or the personae that they
create. If an advertiser sells a product which is enjoyed by many,
and the advertiser has not alienated, offended or angered a
disproportionately larger number of uninterested recipients, that
advertiser could be viewed as a hero. Conversely, an advertiser
broadcasting their product to millions of uninterested parties, at
the parties' cost, will earn the advertiser the moniker of "spammer",
thief, or other less attractive names. The advertiser will be held
responsible for those actions, and the effects those actions have in
the marketplace, which is to say, the 'Net community.
"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."  That was the
caption to an illustration published in the 1990's. The message is
clear - the Internet renders all parties anonymous. The methods used
to sell products in the traditional sales channels - language, image,
relationships, eye contact or body language - no longer apply when
measuring an Internet sale. Reputation, reliability, honesty,
trustworthiness, and integrity have taken the place of the more
direct sales approaches that have been previously used. These are
dictated by the rate at which both information and misinformation
travel on the Internet. And, just as an Internet user cannot control
what messages are sent to them, neither can the Internet marketer
control the information that is disseminated about them, or their
activities. Some information will circulate that is not accurate.
Perhaps there will be cases where there will be information
circulating which is downright incorrect. But, a successful market
reputation, based on ethical behavior, will render the inevitable
piece of misinformation meaningless. For an advertiser to exist
responsibly on the Internet is for the advertiser and seller to take
active responsibility for their actions.
3. Collateral Damage
As this paper has pointed out, there is ample reason to expect that
the sending of spam will result in a significant level of undesirable
reactions, targeted at the advertiser and/or the seller. Death
threats, litigation and retaliatory actions are commonplace. For
these reasons, "spammers" (and in particular, those entities
providing mass-mailing services for third-party businesses) will
frequently take steps to ensure their anonymity. These actions take
various forms, and have been known to include:
- Forging the sender name, domain name, or IP Address
of the sender (called "spoofing")
- Sending messages through any type of hardware, software
or system which belongs to an uninvolved third-party
Each of these activities, as well as numerous others, are criminal
acts in many countries. It is unethical to use the resources of any
other party without their express permission. To do so breaches the
laws of numerous jurisdictions and international agreements -
offenders have been successfully prosecuted in numerous
4. Caveat Mercator
"Let the Seller beware." Advertisers and Sellers can be held
responsible for the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of the messages
they send when applied to the recipients to whom the advertisements
are sent. For this reason, all prospective advertisers must first be
absolutely certain that the recipients of their advertising are
appropriate. For example, sending an advertisement which contains a
link to a website where content of an overt sexual nature is
displayed can have many undesirable consequences:
- In many countries, providing such material to under-
age minors is a crime. As the provider of the link,
the advertiser's position is tenuous.
- In some countries, such material is a crime to view,
possess, or distribute ("trafficking"). As the website
owner or advertiser, a party engaging in such activities
must consider the ramifications of international law.
To prevent such risk, advertisers should qualify the recipients of
their advertising. However, it must be noted that E-Mail addresses
provide little useful information to that end. Remember, "On the
Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." Advertisers will have no way
to qualify a prospective recipient as an adult with complete
discretionary and plenipotentiary authority. In other words, an
advertisement targeting a high-income population in need of property
investment opportunities may be sent to a group of school children.
Or a dog.
How then, does the prospective advertiser/seller determine the
quality of their leads? The essential requirement is that the
advertiser "know" their audience.
As with all sales leads, the ones which are developed and generated
by the advertiser who will use them are of the most value. There is
an inherent value to collecting the data first-hand; by collecting
the data directly from the prospective recipient, the advertiser can
accomplish two important goals:
- The advertiser ensures that the recipient is genuinely
interested in receiving information. Thus, the advertiser
can protect themselves from the negative impact of sending
Unsolicited E-Mail ("spam").
- The advertiser maintains the ability to "pre-qualify" the
lead. One interested lead is worth more, from a sales and
marketing perspective, than millions of actively
uninterested potential recipients.
If an advertiser maintains an active website or uses other mass-
marketing tools (such as direct-mail), and they are interested in
pursuing Internet Advertising, the advertiser can add a mechanism to
gather sales lead data in a relatively simple manner. From the
perspective of Responsible Use, the only such mechanism to be
discussed in this text will be the "Opt-In" concept, to be discussed
in detail later in this document.
Regardless of the manner in which the information is gathered, there
are certain steps which the advertiser must follow. The advertiser
must inform the person that data is being collected. In addition,
the reason why the information is being collected must be clearly
stated. BE AWARE! There are jurisdictions which restrict the
collection of Personal Data. The laws addressing collection and
future handling of Personal Information will vary from place to
place; advertisers must take steps to gain an understanding of those
Prudence should be the advertiser's guide. If an advertiser is
unsure as to the applicability or legality of an action, both in the
jurisdiction of the advertiser as well as that of the recipients, the
action must be avoided entirely. Advertisers would be well advised
to realize that, if they engage in spamming, they will inevitably
break the laws of some jurisdiction, somewhere.
5. Targeting the Audience
Advertisers have something to sell. It may be a product, service, or
other tangible or intangible item. And, of course, the advertiser
needs to get the word out to the market - quickly. After all,
neither the seller or the advertiser are making sales and earning
profits if nobody is buying the product. However, before advertisers
can advertise the product, they must first determine to WHOM the
product will be advertised.
There are considerations in determining the answer to that question.
This text has already addressed how the sending of Unsolicited
Commercial E-Mail ("spam") can generate a number of negative effects.
In addition, numerous surveys cited herein show that the vast
majority of publicly-available mailing lists and Netnews groups
similarly abhor spam. The advertiser's first step should always be
to determine which avenues are appropriate for advertising. Then,
advertisers must determine which avenues are appropriate for EACH
SPECIFIC ADVERTISEMENT. Advertisers are faced with the task of
determining which Netnews groups accept ads, then of those, which
groups are of a topic to which the proposed advertising is relevant.
Similarly, the same work should be done for mailing lists.
Advertisers should take some level of comfort in the fact that there
*are* Netnews groups and mailing lists which welcome advertising -
finding them is a worthwhile investment of the advertiser's time and
For assistance in locating such advertising-friendly websites,
mailing lists, and Netnews groups, advertisers can consult existing
ethical and responsible Internet advertisers. Alternatively, any
low- or no-cost research resource or search engine can be employed to
find those groups and lists. BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN
ADVERTISER PURCHASE A MAILING LIST AND START MAILING! There are
other reasons which will be addressed further into this document, but
to engage in such activity opens the advertiser to the liabilities
and negative ramifications previously stated. Such negative
conditions cause increased costs to the seller/advertiser, when the
risks (loss of connectivity, defense against litigation, avoiding
discovery, etc...) are factored into an advertiser's overall
operation. In short, it is in the best interests of the seller and
advertiser to ensure that the proper audience is targeted, prior to
any further steps.
6. Reaching the audience
Once the prospective advertiser has determined a target market for a
specific advertisement, a manner of advertising must be selected.
While these are too numerous to mention, this document concerns
itself only with those that apply to the ethical use of Internet
resources. Of those, the pertinent ones to be examined (in order of
desirability and effectiveness) are:
- A dedicated website or web page
- Advertisement placed on a "shared" advertising site
(placing an advertisement on an established web-page
which caters to people that indicate a potential
for interest in (a) specific type(s) of product(s).
Such advertisements can take the form of text, links,
"Click-Through Banners", or other.
- Netnews posting
- Targeted E-Mail messages
Note that any manner of blind broadcast (distribution-based)
advertising which does not involve the targeting of the recipients is
not considered responsible.
Once the advertiser has determined the medium for reaching their
target audience, there are key points to be considered, each being
specific to the medium of advertisement:
A. Dedicated website or web page
Advertisers have the option of creating a dedicated website, or
a page within another site for their advertisement. If, from a
technical standpoint, an advertiser is unsure of the process for
creating such a website, there are numerous resources available
to provide assistance. From no-cost avenues such as
instructional websites; to low-cost resources such as books,
videotapes or classes; to full-service businesses and
consultants who can advise advertisers throughout the entire
scope of the website/web page design, implementation and hosting
process (or any part thereof), there is a solution available
for every type of site and cost-structure.
B. "Shared" Advertising website
Advertisers have the option of placing their advertisements on
a website operated by a third-party. For advertisers with an
immediate need, such sites (also called "Electronic Malls",
"E-Shops" or other names) have several advantages. In some
cases, a shared site can be more cost-efficient than building
a dedicated website. Many sites will target a specific market
(refer to Section 5 of this document). By using existing
resources, advertisers can avoid the cost and burden of
owning their own site. Many websites will target a specific
advertisement to a specific audience, thus providing much of
the research for the prospective advertiser, and providing
the advertiser the means with which to reach the most receptive
audience. Additionally, advertisements from such advertising
sites can be integrated into a larger context, such as
supporting free e-mail services, Internet access, or news
broadcasts. Such integration can lend a level of credibility
to an advertising effort that might not exist otherwise.
Some notes on the use of any type of website for advertising:
Regardless of what method an advertiser chooses to use for
for advertising on the Web, there are some specific caveats
regarding customer interactions:
First, the advertiser must ensure that their contact
information - name, phone, e-mail address - are all clear
Second, advertisers should take care in creating forms
which gather information about customers, as there is
concern in the United States and other countries about
gathering information from minors without parental consent.
There is also concern about grabbing dynamic information
via persistent state information, such as through the use
of "cookies" or through data collection software resident
on the user's computer without their knowledge.
Information should only ever be gathered in a voluntary and
or other methods that may be available;
Third, if advertisers DO gather information about people
and plan to use it for marketing in ANY way, advertisers
must be VERY clear to specify their plans as people
submit their information.
C. Netnews and E-Mailing list group postings
If an advertiser has selected newsgroups as a targeted medium,
there are critical preliminary determinations to be made. The
accepted presumption should be that a Netnews group will not
welcome spam, although there are newsgroups which are
advertising-friendly. However, the only way to determine
whether a group welcomes a particular type or form of
advertising is to either:
- read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to determine
what is specifically permitted or prohibited on that
- ask the group by posting a message which briefly
notes how you intend to advertise your product. Do not
mention any product details in this message, merely ask
if the group would object.
- if it is a "moderated" newsgroup, send an e-mail to
the group's moderator. Many group moderators will have
a specific preference for how to deal with advertising,
through compilation, "digest" formats, or other.
It is a recommendation that prospective advertisers read the
groups to which they choose to post for a period before posting.
Generally, an extended period of reading the messages in the
group will give the advertiser an indication as to how their
advertisement will be viewed or accepted on the group in
However, this period of reading should not be used as a
substitute for the suggestions above. Many groups will have
specific instructions and/or requirements for posting
advertisements. Advertisers who fail to meet those
requirements will be undertaking irresponsible behavior,
and will be subject to the effects thereof.
D. Compiled E-Mail Lists
It bears repeating at this point: Let the Seller Beware. The
material discussed in Section 4 of this document is
particularly relevant in the consideration of E-mail, and
the use of compiled lists of e-mail addresses for advertising.
Advertisers should understand that they bear the responsibility
for ensuring the proper targeting of their recipients; the
proper display of their or their seller's identities; and the
use of resources or systems only with the express permission
of the owners of those systems.
When faced with the task of collecting and compiling recipient
information, one option that is frequently presented is that of
pre-compiled mailing lists. Most often, these are advertised
using the very method which is irresponsible, that of
Unsolicited E-Mail. There are numerous reasons why these lists
should not be used.
Many suppliers create mailing lists from addresses which they
have gathered in mildly to extremely unethical ways. Many of
these list-makers rely on grabbing volumes of addresses without
checking their legitimacy. In other words, they send out
software robots to grab addresses they find in News or Mailing
List archives which may be many years old! In addition, many
list owners create addresses using a "dictionary", creating
vast numbers of invalid addresses which are then sold to
unsuspecting purchasers. People change jobs, change ISPs,
and change everything about themselves over time; trusting
a third party for a mailing list is just not wise.
It is known that some mailing list providers have created
mailing lists from E-mail addresses of people who have asked to
be REMOVED from their mailing lists. They then sell these lists
to other advertisers who think they're getting a list of people
who will welcome the unsolicited information.
Regardless of the source, however, advertisers and sellers bear
the responsibility for maintenance of their lists. Purchasing a
list from a third-party shifts the maintenance costs of that
list onto the advertiser who uses it. Needless to say, this is
only economical for mailing list vendor.
Given these conditions, all evidence points to the fact that
the greatest level of control of an advertiser's own success
and liability rests with the advertiser themselves. This being
the case, advertisers are faced with the task of compiling their
own lists of willing recipients of Advertising-related E-Mail
messages. As discussed previously, those leads which are
generated by the advertiser are the most likely to have an
interest in the advertisement, so they are also the least likely
to protest the receipt of such advertisements via E-Mail. It
is this circumstance that makes the use of an "Opt-In" list
(refer to Section 7 of this text) to be perhaps the most
successful method of advertising distribution on the Internet.
It must be noted here - for the same reasons that apply above,
if an advertiser has compiled their own mailing list for their
purposes, that list must NEVER be sold to another party. Just
as it is considered unethical to purchase a third-party mailing
list, it is equally so to be the provider of that list.
Customers who wish to receive information about your product
are not likely to respond favorably when contacted in an
unsolicited fashion by your business associates; protect your
reputation from the backlash of bad-faith that can occur in
7. Opt-In Mailing Lists
This document has laid out the basic facts of Internet Marketing; the
advertiser bears the responsibility of their actions; there will
always be recipients of that advertising who do not wish to receive
it; there are reactions to every responsible and irresponsible act.
Given these considerations, and taking into account the central
message of this document; that Internet Advertising *can* be a
successful venture for everyone involved; there remains a key tool
for the Internet advertiser to harness. Opt-In mailing lists provide
the prospective Internet advertiser with the control they need over
the list of their prospective target audience (validity of e-mail
address; applicability to the intended product; willingness to
receive advertising via e-mail).
Opt-In mailing lists are consistently shown to be more effective in
starting and maintaining customer relationships than any other type
of Internet advertising; studies have shown Opt-In mailing to be
Eighteen (18%) Percent more effective than Banner advertising ,
which has a response rate of only 0.65%. It is so successful because
the recipients of those E-mailed advertisements made a specific
effort to receive them, thus indicating their interest in receiving
information about products which the recipient felt were of interest
Advertisers wishing to employ Opt-In mailing lists in their
advertising can turn to several resources for assistance. If an
advertiser operates their own website or web page, they already
possess the most important facet, a web presence with which to invite
participation in the Opt-In list. If the advertiser chooses to use a
shared website for their product, they can also utilize an Opt-In
data gathering mechanism. There are numerous forms and technologies
that can be employed to build an Opt-In list - this document will not
address them individually. Rather, the purpose of this section is to
provide the advertiser with information which, when used, will help
protect the advertiser, and make the advertising experience a
As stated previously, advertisers should take care in
gathering information from Opt-In participants. First and
foremost, the person providing the information must be aware
that they are doing so. By taking these preliminary steps,
an advertiser decreases the risk of having any messages
interpreted as spam. If, in submitting information for any
purpose, the advertiser intends to use the submitted or
inferred data for any mailings, there should be clear
language indicating so. Furthermore, persons submitting data
must be given the choice to "Opt-Out"; that is, to choose to
submit the data but NOT receive any advertisements. A safe
course of action is for the advertiser to configure their
data-gathering so "Opt-Out" is the default; that is, to
ensure that any members of the list have made a concerted
effort to get onto said list. In nearly all cases, merely
having a "check-box" available with the caption
"Please send me E-Mail advertisements or
announcements about your products."
It is crucial that advertisers be aware that different
jurisdictions deal with the collection of personal data
differently - the burden of verification of these laws rests
on the advertisers. For additional information on privacy,
refer to Appendix B of this document.
When maintaining a list where names can be submitted via some
type of public or semi-public resource, such as a website,
advertisers should take steps to verify every subscription to
that list. There are key pieces of data that can be used to
verify the integrity of a particular subscription request,
but the only person who can attest to the genuineness of the
actual act of subscribing is the owner of the E-Mail address
which has been submitted.
To protect themselves from the risk of inadvertently spamming
an unsuspecting recipient, advertisers should immediately
confirm any submission. In doing so, advertisers can satisfy
all requirements for responsible confirmation of a subscription
request. In addition, if a person's E-Mail address has been
submitted to a list without the knowledge or permission of the
owner of that E-mail address, immediate notification of that,
and the receipt of supporting data, enables the owner of that
account to act accordingly to protect their account from future
When generating confirmations, the following information must
be provided to the subscriber:
- the E-Mail address subscribed
- the manner in which it was subscribed
(website or mailing list address)
- the Date and Time of the subscription request
(via NTP, for uniformity in future reference)
- the IP Address of the host which submitted
- the full headers of the subscription request
(where applicable, such as mailing lists)
- the Name, website address, and contact E-Mail
address of the advertiser
- instructions to the recipient as to how to
permanently remove themselves from the list
In addition, a well-represented business will make an effort
to communicate this material in a way which the average
recipient can understand and relate to, such as the following
- - - - - - C O N F I R M A T I O N - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thank you for your interest in Widget Sales!
This is confirmation of your subscription request for the
Widget Sales E-mail list.
You are currently subscribed with this address:
Your request was received via our website at
If you did not submit this request, someone may have
submitted it for you, or may be pretending to be you.
If you wish to be removed from this list, Reply to this
message with the word UNSUBSCRIBE as the body of the
If you feel you were added to the list without your
permission, the information below should be forwarded to
your ISP's Administrative staff for follow-up, with an
explanation of your concern.
As stated in RFC-2635, "you can do this by sending mail
to "Postmaster@your-site.example". Your postmaster should be
an expert at reading mail headers and will be able to tell if
the originating address is forged. He or she may be able to
pinpoint the real culprit and help close down the site. If
your postmaster wants to know about unsolicited mail, be sure
s/he gets a copy, including headers. You will need to find
out the local policy and comply."
Widget Sales, Inc. | http://www.example.com
Responsible Internet | firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing - Made Easy! | email@example.com
Request received for firstname.lastname@example.org from 192.168.0.1 at
06:41:55:13(GMT) on 07.03.1999 via
E-Mail headers follow:
Received: from 01.anytown.dialup.example.net
([192.168.0.1]) by adshost.example.com
(FooBarMail v01.01.01.01 111-111) with SMTP
for <email@example.com>; Sat, 3 July 1999 01:41:55 +0000
From: Customer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Submission Request
Date: Sat, 03 July 1999 01:41:55 -0400
Organization: Zem & Zem Bedding Company, Inc.
X-Mailer: FooBarMail HTTPMailer Extension 1.0.532
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Advertisers should be advised of certain measures they can take
to protect themselves. Frequently, and especially when the
traffic on a particular mailing list is low, a subscriber may
forget that they had requested membership on that list. When a
new message is sent and subsequently received, said recipient
may lodge a complaint of spamming. If this situation is
multiplied by several recipients, the advertiser and/or seller
risks losing their Internet access, even if they have acted
responsibly throughout the process.
For this reason, advertisers should keep an archive of all
submission requests which are received. This archive should be
kept as diligently as the advertiser's operational data, and
should be similarly safeguarded. Having such requests available
will protect the advertisers from any reports of spamming,
whether they are malicious, or the result of a genuine
misunderstanding. For reasons that should be obvious, those
messages should remain archived for a period that lasts AT
LEAST as long as the list remains active. While this is not
necessarily a requirement for responsible behavior, it is a
measure of safety for the responsible advertiser.
8. Irresponsible Behavior
Shotgunning a message doesn't really work in any medium, but it is
much easier to do with the Internet than with paper mail or telephone
solicitations. The steps which have been provided in this paper will
assist the advertiser in creating a favorable environment for their
work; in ensuring that they maintain a responsible presence on the
Internet; and in targeting the types of customer and the methods to
be used to reach those potential customers. Given these steps, there
are some actions which should be avoided as the basis for any
Responsible advertising presence on the Internet.
DON'T advertise money-making opportunities that can, in any way, be
construed as Pyramid or Ponzi schemes. (For information regarding
those types of "investments", refer to Appendix A.1 of this
DON'T forge E-mail headers to make it look as if the messages
originate from anywhere other than where they really originate. Many
domain owners have won litigation against advertisers who have used
their domain name in an effort to conceal their true identity.
DON'T send out any sort of bogus message to "cover" the intended
activity, which is advertising. In other words, don't pretend that a
personal message from the advertiser to someone else was sent to a
mailing list by mistake so that the body of that message can be used
to advertise, as in this example:
Dear Tony - had a great time at lunch yesterday. Per your
request, here's the information on the latest widget I
DON'T use overly-general statements such as "Our research shows
you're interested in our product." Most recipients know this is
usually a bogus claim. Use of it can rob any legitimacy that the
advertisement may hold.
DON'T create mailing lists from third party sources (see Section 6;
Part D of this document, above).
DON'T SELL MAILING LISTS!!!
Enough negativity! Now for some helpful suggestions.
9. Responsible Behavior
DO create a lively signature which tells the minimum about the
product/service. But keep it to 4 lines total (four lines is the
maximum recommended length for signatures).
DO participate in mailing lists and newsgroups which discuss topics
related to the particular product/service. Advertisers will find
people of a similar interest there and many potential customers. So
long as an advertiser isn't offensive in their interactions with
these groups they can find their participation quite rewarding.
DO ask people if they want to be part of any mailing list that is
created. Advertisers must be clear about their intentions of how
they plan to use the list and any other information that is
DO tell people how list data has been gathered. If recipients are
signed up from a web page, make sure the prospective recipient is
aware that they will be getting mail. Many web pages have getting
mail selected as default. Our recommendation is that the default be
that recipients do NOT wish to receive mailings - even if the
prospective recipients find an advertiser's site of interest.
DO respect the privacy of customers. Keep a mailing list private.
For an advertiser to sell a mailing list is not responsible or
ethical. In addition, if offering any type of online transactions,
advertisers should take care to encrypt any sensitive information The
addresses of the list members should never be viewable by the list
recipients, to protect your list members' privacy.
DO take steps to safeguard all of the personal information that is
being taken from customers, such as Credit Card or other Payment
information. Provide honest information regarding the methods being
used to protect the customer's data.
DO let recipients know how to remove themselves from a mailing list.
Advertisers should make this as easy as possible, and place the
instructions in every message sent.
DO let people know for what purpose any data is being collected.
Advertisers must ensure that their plans regarding data collection
Advertisers and Sellers can check with the web site of the Better
Business Bureau, which operates in the United States and Canada.
(www.bbb.org) This organization has several programs and services
which can help advertisers in those countries, and has other
resources which will benefit advertisers of any nationality.
"Advertisers should advertise responsibly the better mousetrap they
have built, and the world will beat a path to their E-mail address."
10. Security Considerations
This memo offers suggestions for responsible advertising techniques
that can be used via the Internet. It does not raise or address
security issues, but special attention should be paid to the section
on "Privacy". While not strictly a network security consideration,
privacy considerations can have legal ramifications that deserve
Most readers of this document are probably aware as to why "Pyramid"
or "Ponzi" schemes are fraudulent, and in most places, criminal.
Appendix "A" describes how these schemes work and some of the risks
inherent in their operation and participation.
For a topical review of Privacy law across multiple jurisdictions,
including several sovereign nations, Appendix "B" provides some
resources for advertisers or other interested parties.
A.1 The classic Pyramid
In the classic Pyramid scheme, there is a list of a few people. A
participant sends money to one or all of them, and then shifts that
person off the list and adds their own name. The participant then
sends the same message to N people....
The idea is that when a recipient's name gets to the special place on
the list (usually at the "top" of the pyramid), they will get lots of
money. The problem is that this only works for everyone if there are
an infinite number of people available.
As an example, examine a message with a list of four people where
each participant sends US$5.00 to each; removes the first name, and
adds their own name at the bottom. There may also be some content
encouraging the participants to send "reports" to people who submit
money. Presume the rules encourage the participants to send out lots
of copies until they each get ten direct responses, 100 second level
responses, etc., and claim there is a guarantee that the participants
will earn lots of money fast if they follow the procedure.
First, some person or group has to have started this. When they did,
they were able to specify all four names so it was probably four
people working together to split any profits they might get from
being the top of the pyramid (or maybe they sent out four versions of
the original letter with their name order rotated). In some cases,
all names on the list have been proven to be the same person,
operating under assumed business names!
While the letters that accompany these things usually have all kinds
of language about following the instructions exactly, the most
rational thing for a dishonest participant to do if they decided to
participate in such a thing would be to;
(1) send no money to anyone else; and
(2) find three other people and replace all the names on
But, presume that not just this participant, but everyone who ever
participates decides to follow the "rules". To avoid the start-up
transient, assume that it starts with one name on the list and for
the next three layers of people, one name gets added and only after
the list is up to four does any participant start dropping the "top"
What does this look like after nine levels if everything works
perfectly? The following table shows, for nine levels, how many
people have to participate, what each person pays out, gets in, and
Level People Out In Net
1 1 0 $55,550 $55,550
2 10 $5 $55,550 $55,545
3 100 $10 $55,550 $55,540
4 1,000 $15 $55,550 $55,535
5 10,000 $20 $55,550 $55,530
6 100,000 $20 $5,550 $5,530
7 1,000,000 $20 $550 $530
8 10,000,000 $20 $50 $30
9 100,000,000 $20 0 -20
So if this scheme ever progressed this far (which is extremely
unlikely) over 10,000 people would have made the "guaranteed"
$50,000. In order to do that, one hundred million people (or over
ten thousand times as many) are out twenty dollars. And it can't
continue because the scheme is running out of people. Level 10 would
take one billion people, all of whom have $20 to submit, which
probably don't exist. Level 11 would take ten billion, more people
than exist on the earth.
Pyramid schemes are _always_ like this. A few people who start them
may make money, only because the vast majority lose money. People
who participate and expect to make any money, except possibly those
who start it, are being defrauded; for this reason, such schemes are
illegal in many countries.
A.2 What about Ponzi?
A Ponzi scheme is very similar to a pyramid except that all of the
money goes through a single location. This method of confidence
fraud is named after Charles Ponzi, a Boston, Massachusetts
"businessman" who claimed to have discovered a way to earn huge
returns on money by buying international postal reply coupons and
redeeming them in postage for more than their cost. Early
"investors" in this scheme did get their promised return on
investment, but with money that later investors were investing.
Ponzi was actually doing nothing with the money other than deriving
his own income from it, and paying latter investors' money to earlier
Notice the similarity to early pyramid participants, who "earn" money
from the later participants.
Just as pyramids always collapse, Ponzi schemes always collapse also,
when the new people and new money run out. This can have serious
consequences. People in Albania died and much of that country's
savings were squandered when huge Ponzi schemes that "seemed" to be
partly backed by the government collapsed.
A.3 So all multi-levels are evil?
No, all multi-level systems are not the same, nor are they all
If what is moving around is just money and maybe "reports" or the
like that are very cheap to produce, then almost certainly it is a
criminal scam. If there are substantial goods and/or services being
sold through a networked tier-system at reasonable prices, it is more
likely to be legitimate.
If the advertisement says participants can make money "fast", "easy"
or "guaranteed", be very suspicious. If it says participants may be
able to make money by putting in lots of hard work over many months
but there is no guarantee, then it may be legitimate. As always, if
it seems "too good to be true", it probably is.
If people are paid to recruit "members" or can "buy" a high "level",
it is almost certainly a criminal scam. If people are paid only for
the sale of substantial goods and/or services, it is more likely to
It may also be worthwhile to look at the history of the organization
and its founders/leaders. The longer it has been around, the more
likely it is to continue being around. If its founders or leaders
have a history of fraud or crime, a person should think very
carefully before being part of it.
B.1 Why Web Privacy?
Directories, lists or other collection sources of personal data are
the current informational "gold rush" for Internet Marketers. In the
United States and other countries, there is no explicit guarantee of
personal privacy. Such a right, under current legislation, stands
little chance against certain electronic technologies. Some members
of the global community have expressed concern regarding perceived
intrusion into their personal privacy. Still, the collection and
sale of such information abounds.
Self-regulation by businesses utilizing the Internet is the first
choice of legislators, commercial websites, and Internet aficionados.
However, the anticipated profit to be made by selling personal data
and by using these lists for advertisement purposes, often dissuades
United States Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Minority member of the
Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate (at the time of the
writing of this document) states very succinctly why we should
respect Internet Privacy:
"Good privacy policies make good business policies. New
technologies bring with them new opportunities, both for
the businesses that develop and market them, and for
consumers. It does not do anyone any good for consumers
to hesitate to use any particular technology because they
have concerns over privacy. That is why I believe that
good privacy policies make good business policies."
The Center for Democracy and Technology suggests Five Conditions that
websites should use to be considerate of individual's rights to
- Notice of Data Collection
- Choice to Opt Out
- Access to Data to rectify errors
- Adequate Security of Information Database
- Access to contact persons representing the data collector
Notice that the practice of data collection authorization can be
accomplished using something as simple as an automated response E-
Mail message. Such notices should contain easily understood
information about the collecting party's identity, and instructions
as to how a customer can remove themselves from the collected
population. This will help assure prospective customers that an
advertiser is a business of integrity.
Businesses that pursue international trade (do business across
national boundaries, overseas, etc...) bear the risk of facing legal
prosecution for personal privacy violations. The European
Communities have legislation for the flow of Personal Information.
If an advertiser is interested in pursuing business interests across
borders, and particularly if a business intends to solicit and/or
share Personal Information, the advertiser/seller must be able to
guarantee the same privacy considerations as a foreign counterpart,
or as a business operating in the nation in which the advertiser is
soliciting/performing their business.
Other countries and their legislation are shown below:
Germany - BundesDatenSchutzGesetz (BDSG)
France - Commision nationale de l'informatique et de
UK - Data Protection Act (DPA)
Netherlands - Wet PersoonsRegistraties (WPR)
Australia - Privacy Act of 1998 (OECD DAta Protection
Canada - The Personal Information Protection and
Electronic Documents Act
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Mass Unsolicited Mailings and Postings (spam*)", FYI 35, RFC
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Nachman Hays Consulting, Inc.
822 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 204
Narberth, PA 19072 USA
Donald E. Eastlake 3rd
155 Beaver Street
Milford, MA 01757
2200 Mission College Blvd
Santa Clara, CA 95052
Acknowledgements and Significant Contributors
Sandia National Laboratories
Internet Engines, Inc.
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