Democrats Email Opt-Out Violates CAN-SPAM
The law of the land for sending mass email is called CAN-SPAM. It prescribes practices for spam and other mass emails. Most responsible mass emailers follow them. The Democratic Party, however, does not, and that's unfortunate.
The CAN-SPAM law made spam legal, but required that mailers allow people to opt-out. Some mailers, however, were creating complex processes, making it difficult for people to get their addresses removed. The FTC decided that mailers had to offer a simple, direct mechanism so people could make the mail stop.
In May of this year, the FTC issued guidelines to clarify the CAN-SPAM requirements. Their new rules say:
An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.
The Democratic Party, unfortunately, fails to follow this rule. Their mass mailings direct you to opt-out by going to http://www.democrats.org/page/unsubscribe.
Once there, you enter your email address that you want removed. According to CAN-SPAM, once you click the submit button your request should be processed.
Instead, the Democratic web site forces a confirmation. You are brought to a page that says:
To ensure the security of your account, we've sent you an email at the address you provided us. This email contains a 4-digit code that you will need to enter below. If you do not see the inbox within a couple of minutes, check your junk or bulk mail folder as your ISP may have incorrectly marked this message as spam.
This is not permitted by CAN-SPAM.
Even worse, the process doesn't work. I've tried twice, and I've yet to receive the magic cookie to make the mail stop. So I am unable to unsubscribe—the exact circumstance the FTC was working to avoid.
What the Democrats are doing doesn't just violate CAN-SPAM guidelines, it violates industry best practices. The best practice for handling list removal requests is to process them immediately, but email a confirmation message to the leaving subscriber. The message would notify the user in the rare case that the unsubscribe was unwanted or accidental, and could offer easy instructions to reactivate the subscription.
You'd think the Democrats could follow the laws they helped create, but here is the kicker: they don't have to. The rules apply to commercial mailers, not political organizations.
So strictly speaking, the Democrat's non-compliant unsubscribe process isn't illegal. But that doesn't make it right.