361/366 – The New Spam Is Offer Spam

If there’s one thing that can be counted on right now when it comes to the internet, it’s that the spam/anti-spam war is an arms race. As email providers find ways to more efficiently filter out spam about some of the most irrelevant and annoying things that you could possibly want, spammers find a way to briefly get around it before being blocked again. It’s a back and forth that’s been going on for a while now, but even as this is going on, there’s another war being waged as the “new” spam war – the one with offers.

Offer spam is spam that you don’t really remember signing up for. You may decide at checkout as you’re creating your account to ensure that your next transaction goes quicker that you want to receive emails about things that are upcoming. An idle login via Facebook and a couple of clicks in may put you on a list to get some targeted marketing that you didn’t have any intention to bother with. Or a brick and mortar retailer may request that you give them your address just to be able to email a receipt, only to ensure that you’re signed up for whatever else besides that that they feel like sending you. Regardless of how it happens, the result is the same – a lot of little offers about recent purchases (and future ones) that assault your inbox in consistent, yet still somewhat annoying, ways.

Email providers have worked to at least help out with some of the offer spam without outright filtering it as actual spam with spyware, as most of the offers come from legitimate vendors and from places where you probably directly signed up to receive them. GMail’s Inbox filters them off into the Purchases bundle and other programs offer to move them elsewhere based on a variety of increasingly granular criteria. Opt-out does exist and is displayed if you know where to look for it, but is sometimes a little bit hard to spot due to fine print that tries to keep your eyes from focusing on it. And then there’s the fact that some of the offers that are out there are actually interesting and worth clicking on, which, if taken advantage of, keeps you potentially in the loop for more offer spam – and this time of your own choosing.

I don’t think offer spam will ever become not present in our inboxes, just for the fact that it isn’t insidious or contains things that install awful software on your computer that can compromise it. It is, however, still a form of spam that we have to deal with – a visitor to the home that our email inboxes are that sometimes overstays their welcome. In the end, it s battle that will have to be fought by other means than antispam automatic filters or by software meant to kill the spyware that’s placed into more unscrupulous, traditional spam mails. It will simply have to be fought with caution and practicality as a weapon, where we not just find a way to quietly and legitimately unsubscribe from what we don’t need but also make sure that we aren’t inadvertently signing up for it in the first place – because at least the one comfort we have with offer spam is that it is completely and totally avoidable by our own choice, even if the retailers might not want you to opt out of it. That’s a war that can be fought without any real casualties involving your tech.

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