Nether senders nor receivers can opt out of per-user tracking.
Last month, I switched to Constant Contact for managing my subscriber list for my LawLawLaw newsletter. I did so primarily because I wanted better statistics about bounces than I was getting from Mailman. And I was willing to pay to get these stats.
Here’s an email exchange between me and one of my friends about how Constant Contact behaves like spyware. This is my reply to my friend’s email. I’ll summarize below.
Greetings, Awesome feedback. Inline responses below. At 02/24/2007 08:39 PM, you wrote: >All right - some confessions: > >I would make a terrible "Nielsen" viewer. I never rate my >Netflix rentals. I dislike any sort of special "loyalty" >discount cards (regardless of what they might be called). >I hate it when Radio Shack asks for my phone number on a >cash purchase. I generally have an engineer's disdain for >marketing (it's a gut reaction - I probably know better, but >I can't help it). I dislike the direction RFID use seems to >be going. Et cetera. Ditto. I always say "no thank you" when stores ask me for my phone number or whatever. I don't use loyalty programs unless they will save me a ton of money. So we belong to the loyalty program at the hardware store. [My wife] belongs to the CVS one, and I think she gets some discounts from that. Two days ago, I was in Radio Shack, and they wanted me to join their loyalty program, which would have saved me $10 on the spot. But when I asked if I'd have to carry a card with me (something I hate), they said I wouldn't and that they could just "look up my account by my social security number" (something I hate even more). So I declined, even though it would have saved me money. >Perhaps from all this you might guess that I generally dislike >companies collecting data on what I do or don't like. I agree. In fact, your email just reminded me to cancel my Upromise account, the biggest joke of all loyalty programs. By the way, you know the current security breach regarding TJ Maxx and stolen credit card numbers? Do you know why TJ Maxx keeps your credit card number on file in the first place? After your purchase is completed, they have no reason whatsoever to keep your credit card on file. The transaction is done, the number is no longer needed. But they keep it so that they can identify you, track you, and sell this data to catalog vendors etc. I'd bet they make as much money from selling data as they do from selling products. I might start paying with cash everywhere. >Well, it turns out that I just upgraded my version of Eudora >(at least, I assume that's why I'm now seeing what I am). >When I hover over a URL where the link text does not match >the actual URL, it pops up a warning. That makes it pretty >clear that all of the links in your LawLawLaw newsletter go through >rs6.net, presumably for tracking purposes. At least you're using an email reader that alerts you to potentially fraudulent email. I noticed that too and thought it was odd. I didn't even know that Constant Contact did per-user tracking. More on this below. >So, it turns out that my dislike of being tracked even extends >to friends. I did visit a few of the links by cutting/pasting >the text, but none via click-thru. I did think it was particularly >ironic that I noticed this in the issue where you have this story: > > > Better Privacy Without Personalized Search (2007-11-18) > > "If you're not thrilled with the idea of Google associating every > search you make with your account, you can permanently disable > Personalized Search." > > < > http://lifehacker.com/software/google/permanently-disable-google-personalized-search-229673.php > > I admit that it is ironic. >So, can I convince you to not track the links people follow? >Or can you convince me that my outlook is wrong or outdated or >misguided, or perhaps even hopeless (as Scott McNealy has said, >"you have no privacy - get over it")? That you use the collected >info to hone LawLawLaw into the most value packed >Technology/Law/Baseball/Rock'n'Roll newsletter your attractive >audience has ever seen? > >Or at least tell me that the software you use gives >you no choice in the matter. I switched to Constant Contact because I wanted better data about how many people were reading LawLawLaw and how many email addresses were bouncing. Using Mailman was like sending my data into a black hole. It's hard to have "constant contact" if your address book is out of date. I've learned some very interesting things. For example, the industry averages are as follows: bounces - 18.3% opens - 37.0% clicks - 8.9% forwards - 3.3% So I was shocked to find out that only about 25% of LawLawLaw subscribers actually open the newsletter. For my client newsletter, only 40% are opened! This means that I'm going to have to send the client newsletter by USPS mail as well as by email (as some of the info in my client newsletter is quite critical). Regarding LawLawLaw, the low open rate means that I'm going to work harder to improve the newsletter. I think that's a good outcome. I have opened a trouble ticket with Constant Contact to specifically ask if per-user tracking can be turned off. As you correctly guessed, each individual message (and link within each message) is assigned a unique tracking code. So I can (ostensibly) tell which users are bouncing, opening, clicking, and forwarding. I'd be quite happy with general numbers on opens, clicks, and forwards. For obvious reasons, I need specifics for bounces. But I think it should be an option to do per-user tracking on opens, clicks, and forwards, an option that both the sender and the receiver can set. Plain text is one option, but I've just about given up on trying to send plain text email. I think the only people who complain about HTML email are those still reading email in Emacs or the like. To answer one of your questions, I think that you are in the minority in complaining about these issues. Of 250 readers, only 2 people complained: you and [deleted]. It doesn't mean that the issues are not important. They are. But I concede to being in the minority when it comes to caring about such issues. You may also appreciate this, somewhat related, article: Don't Fear The Technology <http://www.erikjheels.com/2007-01-02-dont-fear-the-technology.html> Although I've changed my mind since writing that articled and just purchased a MacBook. Now THAT's being open minded! Regards, Erik
In case you missed it, here’s my main point:[>
I’d be quite happy with general numbers on opens, clicks, and forwards. For obvious reasons, I need specifics for bounces. But I think it should be an option to do per-user tracking on opens, clicks, and forwards, an option that both the sender and the receiver can set.
I asked Constant Contact, and they said that there is no way to disable per-user tracking on clicks. I would add that there is a way to disable tracking but that Constant Contact has chosen not to implement this feature. I could send plain text emails, but then I’d not get stats on bounces. Individual users can choose to receive plain text email. I could also include URLs but make them un-clickable, but that would defeat the purpose of having URLs in the first place.