CyberTech Rambler

May 17, 2006

Why you should always opt-out of offer to receive promotional material

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:39 am

ComputerWorld's Editor-in-chief, Don Tennant published an article about a Microsoft salesperson using licensing enforcement as a ruse to get a salesperson into your company to pitch for more Microsoft program. Frank Hayes from the same magazine then follow up with another article confirming what we already suspected: It is official Microsoft policy to use the threat of enforcement to get a salesperson into your company to "help you get the most out of Microsoft licensing", a euphermism for getting you to spend more money on Microsoft product.

Immediately obvious is the question of Business Ethics as made clear by both articles: (1)If your intention is to do a sales promotion, make it clear to your receipients. I am sure a lot of us do not like the experience of friends getting into our house on the pretext of social visit then trying to sell us something, let alone a stranger. (Aside: I particularly respect one of father's friend. We went to his house to pay him a visit. My father than found out that he was a sales representative for a product he had been consider buying so he placed an order with him. When the order did not arrive, he call him up and his reply was "I thought you were just going with the flow of the conversation when you placed the order". He was simply trying not to pressure my father into the sales by following up with the sales. A true friend indeed) and (2) As the sales pitch started with the "blackmail" of licensing enforcement, most people will simply pay to make it go away as they do not want the hassle of the threat materializing.

If you think this is bad, they did exactly the same trick with schools. See this article and this slashdot discussion.

So what does this has to do with the title? It reminds me of the small print on almost every form that says "tick here if you do not want us to contact you about things that might interest you". There is one thing call "Data Protection Act" that stops licensing enforcement division from passing information about customers to sales division. The small print is there to sidesteps this restriction. Hence, if I have suspicion that people pass my information inappropriately this way, I can tell them I had never consented to this and challenge them to prove it.

Actually, I am more paranoid then this. In Europe some company use the "opt-in" system rather than "opt-out". With "opt-in" it means you tick a box to consent to them contacting you. the weakness in this system is anyone can tick the box for you later. Doing a hand-writing analysis for a tick is probably going to be impossible and ink test is not likely to rule out that the form is tempered with. That is why I carry around with me a purple coloured pen.

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