Simon Willison’s Weblog


McGraw Hill sold me out

16th April 2004

Like everyone else on the internet, I get a fair amount of spam. I tend to keep my main work as clean as possible, while skipping over the spam in my lower-traffic personal account and cleaning it up every week or so.

While cleaning out the latest batch, I noticed that a number of undesirable emails had been delivered to an address which I had used as a “spam trap”—I had only used it once when signing up for a particular service. I ran a search for all messages sent to that address and found this charming missive, dated March 15th:

As a subscriber to or customer of certain products and services published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, The McGraw-Hill List Management Center’s commitment to you is to keep you current, by email, on products and services from third party (non-McGraw-Hill) advertisers that might be of interest to you. Each email message will be preceded by the name of the company offering the product or service, so that you know the source and purpose of the email before opening it.

If you do not wish to receive these informative emails from The McGraw-Hill Companies List Management Center, please follow this link [-- link removed --]

You will be taken off of this list to receive email messages from these third party advertisers. It will not affect your status as a customer of or subscriber to any McGraw-Hill product or service in any manner.

They’d opted me in to their third party mailing list. Obviously I would have hit the “I don’t want your disgusting spam” link if I had actually seen it, but the subject of the email was “++SPAM++ Special Offers” (the ++SPAM++ part was added by my University’s spam filter) so naturally I had skipped straight over it assuming it was yet another piece of worthless spam. I guess that’s almost ironic.

In the month since receiving that email, I’ve had 12 unwanted commercial emails sent to that address.

I’m usually very conscientious about ticking the “don’t ever, ever spam me” box when I sign up for things. Maybe I was less vigilant than normal in this case, but I sincerely doubt it. The service I had originally signed up for was a free trial of Zinio. I just checked the registration form and it has two clearly labelled “you may send me junk” boxes, which I’m certain I would have unchecked. I can only conclude that they ignored my initial request, sent me an easily missed “we’re about to spam you” message and proceeded to fill my inbox with garbage.

Maybe this kind of thing is covered by their privacy policy (which I can’t access at the moment as their site appears to be unavailable). You know what? I didn’t read their privacy policy. I don’t read privacy policys. I don’t read EULAs either—heck, I don’t read anything that looks like it was written by a lawyer and is likely to BREAK IN TO CAPITAL LETTERS at any moment. I assumed that checking the “don’t spam me” boxes was enough. Evidently my faith in basic human decency let me down.

McGraw Hill: I’m absolutely disgusted with you. Your behaviour in regards to bulk email sickens me, and I will never again knowingly purchase one of your products or support your business in any way.

Oh, and the final insult? They signed off their treacherous email with Thank you for being a loyal McGraw-Hill customer. Words fail me.

This is McGraw Hill sold me out by Simon Willison, posted on 16th April 2004.

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