"Psssst! Hey buddy, check dis out over heeya. If ya give me yer database of customas' offline info, I'll give you email addresses to match! Waddaya say pal? $2 per name, awright?" That's how it might go down in a dark alley in privacy advocates' nightmare, but reality is that email appending industry uses bright chirpy banter and photos of clean-cut staffers to tell you story. The following link will take you to site of a vendor who explains email appending with Sunday-school innocence.
Email appending is big business. Here's how it works. A multinational corporation wants to send out an email campaign to it's database of offline customers, say those who purchased their computer printer and filled out warranty card and mailed it in. The problem? They don't have email addresses of those customers. Who ya gonna call? Here, let's visit my favorite search engine, Google, and type "email appending" into search box. Click submit.
There are results 1 - 10 of about 42,300. Search took 0.05 seconds. So much for exhaustive research. Well I suppose that if you wanted to drag things out a bit you could do a few price comparisons. The industry is huge and profitable.
So you want email addresses? Zip us an Excel spreadsheet of your customers names, addresses and phone numbers and we'll send back email addresses to match those customers with. What we won't tell you is that we are missing a good deal of that information ourselves and you'll be paying us to incorporate YOUR information into our email database. If you pay us enough, we'll even tell you about those customers lives, their taste in cars, their travel habits and their income levels. And . . . that's not all, if you can provide us with information on their computer system and software purchases, we'll throw in a free recap of their credit history -- No Charge!
DoubleClick was publicly reamed for announcing they would do this by merging database of a direct marketing company they acquired with their own database of email addresses and surfing habits of online users. They were sued, they lost millions, they were vilified in press. Hmmmm. Why don't we care that 42,300 others are doing same thing?
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has introduced guidelines on practice. A marketing industry analyst comments in email marketing publication, "Opt-in News" editorialized on self-serving nature of DMA's dance around term "Opt-In" when they say:
E-mail address appending is process of adding an individual's e-mail address to that individual's record inside a marketer's existing database. This is accomplished by matching marketer's database against a third party, permission-based database to produce a corresponding e-mail address. I was amazed that organization (Direct Marketing Association) danced around privacy issues by creating a loophole extravaganza. The document was written by marketers for marketers, culminating in a classic case of a wolf in sheep's clothing.