Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Zero Tolerance Policy for Business Spam

In 2011 and 2012 I wrote about the increasing problem of Business Spam - unsolicited, unconsented advertising that has grown in volume to the point that it constitutes more than half of my email .    In 2016, I’ve done an experiment - I’ve not opted in to any newsletter, any website offering notifications or any vendor offering information.   I’ve monitored my mailbox for violators of good email practices.

This month, we put a stop to it - cold turkey.   Anyone sending business spam is now blocked from the 22,000 users of Beth Israel Deaconess and its affiliates.

Here’s how we did it - using a commercially available appliance we have black listed organizations which send bulk email and companies which violate unsolicitied email policies.

I realize there are many categories of activity going on here

1. Those who have my contact information for a legitimate business reason but sell that information without my consent.  Maybe there is something buried in a conference registration that suggests my information will be sold, but I’ve never found such a disclosure.

2.  Those who create mailing lists by guessing at email addresses.   John.halamka,  halamkaj, john_halamka, halamka.john are all guesses since I’ve never used such addresses on any materials.

3.  Those who facilitate bulk mailing.   I’ve had conversations with the management of companies that provide bulk mailing services such as newsletters/product updates/special deals.   Many of these bulk mailing companies have sound anti-spam policies.   However, they have to trust that organizations which use their services adhere to the policies, accepting attestation that consent/subscription has been obtained from receipients on mailing lists.   Many customers of bulk mailing outfits submit false attestations.    Remember, I’ve not opted into a single thing in 2016 and I’m receiving hundreds of bulk emails every day.

May of 2016 marks “email liberation” month at BIDMC, since  we put a stop to the electronic equivalent of garbage passing through our email gateways.   This Zero tolerance for bulk email approach may very well transform email into a once again useful medium for communication.   Sure, we’ll implement secure texting and groupware over the next year as alternatives to email, but there is a chance email could be salvaged.

My email box has gone from 1500 emails a day to 150.    If everyone does this, maybe the business spammers will stop their flood of unwanted communications.

Viva the email liberation!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with your post! I get an average of 100 e-mails daily and only 2 to 3 warrant a response om my personal e-mail. On my business e-mail I get an average of 250 e-mails a day, and only 5 to 10 require a business reply. Like Dr. Halamka, I'm a blogger also, on the HIStalk website as ThePACSDesigner!