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Key Elements And Importance Of A Well Defined Privacy Policy

By Dan J. Fry
Posted Friday, December 10, 2004

Way back in the early 1990's, before spam was even an issue, the degree of subscriber privacy was not a question. With the new CAN-SPAM law seriously threatening email marketing it is crucial now more than ever to make subscribers, both new and old, well aware of your dedication as a publisher to abide by their wishes.

Federal Law now makes it a felony to engage in email marketing activities that we have all known are simply unethical, making attention to detail in your spam policy highly important. The new law is rather controversial and poses many problems believed to actually increase spam. However, clearly defining your intentions and willingness to fight against spammers, as well as promising never to spam anyone builds trust and credibility. What's even better is that it lends support and legitimacy to email marketing in the fight against the new laws.

So, what guidelines should be followed? Although this seems upfront like a no-brainer, it is the specific wording that can be tricky.

(1) Stay away from what I call "lawyer talk". What's the point if a potential subscriber has to go to the library to figure out what you promise to do. Tell them your intentions in simple sentences. There is no need to use fancy wording.

(2) Explicitly state that you strictly prohibit spam. You must spell out your stance for your subscribers. There is no room for interpretation here.

(3) Promise to them that you will never spam. Seems silly to say this but remember the point here: credibility, trust, and protection.

(4) State the details regarding your publication as to how many mailings they should expect. Keep in mind the average person's memory span. Subscribers don't really like surprise mailings.

(5) Do you offer advertising to third parties in your publication? If so you must inform your subscribers. They are agreeing to receive mail from you. Make sure they understand that subscribing also means possible third party advertisements.

I personally prefer to itemize my intentions and devotion to not spamming. Each primary point is then laid out.

Its important to keep in mind that you are building a business relationship with your subscribers. You must explain to them at sign up how your publication is dispersed. How many times per week should they expect to receive email from you? Do you anticipate this changing in the near future? Will they be getting third party advertisements?

As a final remark, your spam policy is also protection for you. People may forget what you have told them at sign up and report you all of a sudden as a spammer. I recommend putting up your spam policy, with a check box such that they must read in it order to process their subscription. In the advent that you are accused of any form of spam, your policy is testament to your intentions. If you have strictly followed the key elements laid out for your subscribers you should then have nothing to worry about.

For more references on the current law and problems check out:

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About the Author
Dan J. Fry is an independent researcher and owner of, a site devoted to providing resources for small budget home businesses. He has a PhD in Physics and is married with two daughters and two cats. Subscribe to his free E-Zine on home business resources at or by visiting his Home Business. Resources and Tips site. He can be reached at mailto:comp@e-kinetic.com0.


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