I’ve been going through a fascinating exercise this week, as I streamline the information going to my myriad e-mail addresses. That entails changing the addresses used to receive some information, like newsletters from companies that I buy from or cover as an analyst. In many cases, this process is prompting me to cancel subscriptions to things I don’t read any more.
This isn’t about fighting spam. This is about controlling e-mail messages that I’ve opted to receive, or which are legitimately coming from businesses that I’ve worked with before. Here are some of my experiences:
• In the best cases, unsubscribing is easy: Just click the unsubscribe link in the e-mail newsletter. The unsubscribe link is coded with my e-mail address or other unique identifier, and a personalized e-mail response or Web page positively confirms that I have unsubscribed. That’s nirvana.
• Some messages tell me to hit reply with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject line. The problem is, some of the e-mail addresses that I’m trying to unsubscribe from are forwarding addresses, which I can’t reply from. Now what?
• Some messages insist that I provide extra information. Newsletters from Palm fall into that group. A link takes me to a Web form which lets me subscribe/unsubscribe from various newsletters. However, the form contains mandatory fields — such as first name, last name, and “most recent handhand/smartphone,” which must be filled in before you can hit “submit,” even if you’re unsubscribing. Lame!
• And then there’s Microsoft, in a class by itself. In order to unsubscribe, I must register for a Windows Live ID. Their privacy page says, “You can stop the delivery of future promotional e-mail from Microsoft sites and services by following the specific instructions in the e-mail you receive.” One newsletter from them refers me to https://login.live.com/ppsecure/secure.srf in order to cancel my subscription. However, the e-mail address that the newsletter came to is not affiliated with any Windows Live ID.
In response, I received a form e-mail response, which read:
Thank you for your message to MSN and Windows Live Privacy.
We offer you choices for the collection, use, and sharing of your personal information. You may go to the MSN and Windows Live Communications Preferences Web page to make choices about the use of your personal information. You may choose not to receive marketing material from MSN and Windows Live or on behalf of external third party business partners. You may also stop the delivery of future promotional e-mail from MSN and Windows Live by following the specific instructions in the e-mail you receive.
You may subscribe and unsubscribe to MSN Newsletters by going to http://newsletters.msn.com . In addition, each MSN newsletter you receive, will have instructions about how to unsubscribe.
These communications choices do not apply to mandatory service communications that are considered part of certain MSN and Windows Live services, which you may receive periodically, unless you cancel the service.
You may also have the ability to view or edit your personal information. If you wish to update your MSN and Windows Live profile information, change your password, view the unique ID associated with your credentials, or close certain MSN and Windows Live accounts, please visit MSN Account Services at http://accountservices.msn.com
If you have a billing account you can add to or update the information through the Account Update area located at https://billing.microsoft.com
If you have created a public profile on MSN or Windows Live, you may also edit or delete information in your public profile by going to http://members.msn.com/edit.msnw
If you buy MSN Keyword advertising, you can review and edit your personal information at http://adcenter.msn.com/
Some services offered on MSN and Windows Live may collect personal information that is not accessible via the links above. However, in such cases, you may be able to access that information through alternative means of access described by the service. Or you can write us by using our Web form and we will contact you within 30 days regarding your request.
If your sign-in credentials remain inactive for an extended period of time they will be deleted. Inactivity is defined as not signing in to any site or service on the Passport Network using your credentials. If your credentials are associated with a free MSN or Hotmail e-mail account, your account will be made inaccessible if it remains inactive for 30 days and your inbox will be deleted. If you have Passport Network credentials that are not associated with a free MSN or Hotmail e-mail account, your account will be made inaccessible if it remains inactive for 365 days, and any information you have provided will be deleted. These restrictions do not apply to accounts associated with paid subscriptions for MSN or Hotmail.
For further information on the MSN and Windows Live Privacy Statement please visit: http://privacy.msn.com
MSN and Windows Live Privacy
And the links bring me back to where I have to enter my Windows Live ID. Brilliant, eh?