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Network Working Group T. Gavin Request for Comments: 3098 Nachman Hays Consulting FYI: 38 D. Eastlake 3rd Category: Informational Motorola

                                                          S. Hambridge
                                                            April 2001
      How to Advertise Responsibly Using E-Mail and Newsgroups
                          or - how NOT to
                  $$$$$  MAKE ENEMIES FAST!  $$$$$

Status of this Memo

 This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
 not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
 memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

 Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001).  All Rights Reserved.


 This memo offers useful suggestions for responsible advertising
 techniques that can be used via the internet in an environment where
 the advertiser, recipients, and the Internet Community can coexist in
 a productive and mutually respectful fashion.  Some measure of
 clarity will also be added to the definitions, dangers, and details
 inherent to Internet Marketing.

Table of Contents

 1.  Introduction ..............................................  2
 2.  Image and Perception of the Advertiser.....................  4
 3.  Collateral Damage .........................................  5
 4.  Caveat Mercator ...........................................  5
 5.  Targeting the Audience ....................................  7
 6.  Reaching the audience .....................................  8
     A.   Dedicated website or web page ........................  8
     B.   "Shared" Advertising website .........................  9
     C.   Netnews and E-Mailing list group postings ............ 10
     D.   Compiled E-Mail Lists ................................ 11
 7.  Opt-In Mailing Lists ...................................... 12
     A. Privacy ................................................ 13
     B. Integrity .............................................. 13
     C. Protection ............................................. 16

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 1] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 8.  Irresponsible Behavior .................................... 16
 9.  Responsible Behavior ...................................... 17
 10. Security Considerations ................................... 19
 Appendices .................................................... 20
   A.1  The classic Pyramid .................................... 20
   A.2  What about Ponzi? ...................................... 22
   A.3  So all multi-levels are evil? .......................... 22
   B.1  Why Web Privacy? ....................................... 23
 References .................................................... 25
 Authors' Addresses ............................................ 26
 Acknowledgments and Significant Contributors .................  27
 Full Copyright Statement ...................................... 28

1. Introduction

 The Internet is not a free resource.  Access to and a presence on the
 'Net comes at a cost to the participants, the service provider, and
 the recipients of those services made available by the Internet.  The
 more readily available internet has allowed users access to an
 unprecedented number of people.  Due to the rapid growth and
 "mainstream" acceptance of the 'Net, new opportunities have been
 found for the distribution of information to the vast and ever-
 growing community of Internet users.  There are groups and
 individuals who choose to use the 'Net for purposes for which it was
 not intended, thus defying the consensus among both the practitioners
 and the unwilling recipients.  The aforementioned practice, of
 course, is the sending of Unsolicited Commercial and Bulk E-Mail
 messages, posts to Netnews groups, or other unsolicited electronic
 communication.  This condition has caused an awakening on the part of
 the Internet community-at-large.
 There are stereotypes that must be broken before continuing.  Not all
 persons who are new to the Internet are ignorant of the 'Net's
 history and evolution, or its proper and ethical uses.  Nor are all
 experienced, long-term Netizens against the use of the Internet for
 advertising, marketing, or other business purposes.  Where these two
 groups can find commonality is in their opposition to the use of the
 Internet in irresponsible ways.  Some of these irresponsible uses
 include, but are not limited to, the sending of Unsolicited Bulk or
 Commercial E-Mail to mailing lists, individuals, or netnews groups.
 In the vernacular, this activity is called "spamming" (the sending of
 "spam" [1]).  To understand why such activities are irresponsible,
 one must first understand the true cost and ramifications of such
 The protocols and architecture upon which the 'Net is built, which
 are recognized and adhered to as standards, provide for an openness
 and availability which foster and encourage easy communication.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 2] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 These standards were developed at a time when there was no need to
 consider the concept of "rejecting" information.  While those
 standards have evolved, they continue to emphasize open
 communication.  As such, they do not associate costs or impact with
 the user-initiated activities which may occur.  Because of this
 openness, persons can and do send large volumes of E-Mail, with
 little-to-no cost or financial impact for the volume of messages
 sent.  Needless to say, this presents the attractive option (to those
 who would consider such activity) of multiplying the recipients of
 their marketing material, and presumably, increasing their success-
 rate.  However, and to reiterate an earlier statement in this text,
 there is a cost to be incurred at some point in this communication
 relationship.  In the case of E-Mail advertising, since the cost of
 operation does not increase on the part of the sender, it must
 therefore increase on the side of the recipient.
 And it does.  Every recipient of every E-Mail message bears a cost,
 either direct (cost per message received, an incremental increase in
 connection charges) or indirect (higher service fees to recoup
 infrastructural costs associated with the additional 'Net traffic
 which such mass-mailings create).  In addition, other resources, such
 as the disk space and time of the recipient, are consumed.
 Because the recipients have no control over whether or not they will
 receive such messages, the aforementioned costs are realized
 involuntarily, and without consent.  It is this condition (the
 absence of consent to bear the costs of receipt of a mass-
 distributed message) that has shaped the Internet Community's
 viewpoint - that the act of sending spam constitutes a willful theft
 of service, money, and/or resources.  Those who choose to ignore the
 financial impact, and instead focus on the consumption of indirect
 resources, have been known to label spam "Internet Pollution".
 The Internet provides a tremendous opportunity for businesses, both
 large and small.  There is certainly money to be made using the 'Net
 as a resource.  This paper recommends practices and ways to use the
 Internet in manners which are not parasitic; which will not, by their
 mere existence, engender predetermined opposition, litigation, or
 other negative conditions.  This paper does not guarantee freedom
 from those, or other negative responses - rather, it provides the
 reader with a framework through which the marketer/advertiser and the
 'Net community (and more importantly, the seller's target market) can
 coexist as well as possible.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 3] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

2. Image and Perception of the Advertiser

 While it may appear to be financially attractive to advertise via the
 use of Mass-Messaging ("spam"), as a responsible Internet user,
 generation and market or business expansion are minuscule when
 compared to some of the risks:
  1. The alienation of the vast majority of the recipients

of an advertising message [2][3]

  1. The damage or loss of credibility in the advertisers

market [2]

  1. Loss in advertiser's and/or seller's Internet

connectivity (most service providers have strict

          "zero tolerance" policies which prohibit the use
          of their systems for the sending of spam, or
          for encouraging or enabling such activities)
  1. Civil and Criminal litigation. In the United States,

(and progressively in other sovereign states), it has

          become accepted as fact that the theft-of-service
          associated with spamming often constitutes an
          unlawful use of private property and is actionable
          as trespass to chattels (a civil law term
          tantamount to "theft") in civil court [4][5][6][7]
 It is a fundamental tenet to any Internet presence that a party will
 be responsible for their Internet "image", or the personae that they
 create.  If an advertiser sells a product which is enjoyed by many,
 and the advertiser has not alienated, offended or angered a
 disproportionately larger number of uninterested recipients, that
 advertiser could be viewed as a hero.  Conversely, an advertiser
 broadcasting their product to millions of uninterested parties, at
 the parties' cost, will earn the advertiser the moniker of "spammer",
 thief, or other less attractive names.  The advertiser will be held
 responsible for those actions, and the effects those actions have in
 the marketplace, which is to say, the 'Net community.
 "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." [9]  That was the
 caption to an illustration published in the 1990's.  The message is
 clear - the Internet renders all parties anonymous.  The methods used
 to sell products in the traditional sales channels - language, image,
 relationships, eye contact or body language - no longer apply when
 measuring an Internet sale.  Reputation, reliability, honesty,
 trustworthiness, and integrity have taken the place of the more

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 4] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 direct sales approaches that have been previously used.  These are
 dictated by the rate at which both information and misinformation
 travel on the Internet.  And, just as an Internet user cannot control
 what messages are sent to them, neither can the Internet marketer
 control the information that is disseminated about them, or their
 activities.  Some information will circulate that is not accurate.
 Perhaps there will be cases where there will be information
 circulating which is downright incorrect.  But, a successful market
 reputation, based on ethical behavior, will render the inevitable
 piece of misinformation meaningless.  For an advertiser to exist
 responsibly on the Internet is for the advertiser and seller to take
 active responsibility for their actions.

3. Collateral Damage

 As this paper has pointed out, there is ample reason to expect that
 the sending of spam will result in a significant level of undesirable
 reactions, targeted at the advertiser and/or the seller.  Death
 threats, litigation and retaliatory actions are commonplace.  For
 these reasons, "spammers" (and in particular, those entities
 providing mass-mailing services for third-party businesses) will
 frequently take steps to ensure their anonymity.  These actions take
 various forms, and have been known to include:
  1. Forging the sender name, domain name, or IP Address

of the sender (called "spoofing")

  1. Sending messages through any type of hardware, software

or system which belongs to an uninvolved third-party

          (called "relaying")
 Each of these activities, as well as numerous others, are criminal
 acts in many countries.  It is unethical to use the resources of any
 other party without their express permission. To do so breaches the
 laws of numerous jurisdictions and international agreements -
 offenders have been successfully prosecuted in numerous

4. Caveat Mercator

 "Let the Seller beware."  Advertisers and Sellers can be held
 responsible for the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of the messages
 they send when applied to the recipients to whom the advertisements
 are sent.  For this reason, all prospective advertisers must first be
 absolutely certain that the recipients of their advertising are
 appropriate.  For example, sending an advertisement which contains a
 link to a website where content of an overt sexual nature is
 displayed can have many undesirable consequences:

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 5] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

  1. In many countries, providing such material to under-

age minors is a crime. As the provider of the link,

          the advertiser's position is tenuous.
  1. In some countries, such material is a crime to view,

possess, or distribute ("trafficking"). As the website

          owner or advertiser, a party engaging in such activities
          must consider the ramifications of international law.
 To prevent such risk, advertisers should qualify the recipients of
 their advertising.  However, it must be noted that E-Mail addresses
 provide little useful information to that end.  Remember, "On the
 Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."  Advertisers will have no way
 to qualify a prospective recipient as an adult with complete
 discretionary and plenipotentiary authority.  In other words, an
 advertisement targeting a high-income population in need of property
 investment opportunities may be sent to a group of school children.
 Or a dog.
 How then, does the prospective advertiser/seller determine the
 quality of their leads?  The essential requirement is that the
 advertiser "know" their audience.
 As with all sales leads, the ones which are developed and generated
 by the advertiser who will use them are of the most value.  There is
 an inherent value to collecting the data first-hand; by collecting
 the data directly from the prospective recipient, the advertiser can
 accomplish two important goals:
  1. The advertiser ensures that the recipient is genuinely

interested in receiving information. Thus, the advertiser

          can protect themselves from the negative impact of sending
          Unsolicited E-Mail ("spam").
  1. The advertiser maintains the ability to "pre-qualify" the

lead. One interested lead is worth more, from a sales and

          marketing perspective, than millions of actively
          uninterested potential recipients.
 If an advertiser maintains an active website or uses other mass-
 marketing tools (such as direct-mail), and they are interested in
 pursuing Internet Advertising, the advertiser can add a mechanism to
 gather sales lead data in a relatively simple manner.  From the
 perspective of Responsible Use, the only such mechanism to be
 discussed in this text will be the "Opt-In" concept, to be discussed
 in detail later in this document.

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 Regardless of the manner in which the information is gathered, there
 are certain steps which the advertiser must follow.  The advertiser
 must inform the person that data is being collected.  In addition,
 the reason why the information is being collected must be clearly
 stated.  BE AWARE!  There are jurisdictions which restrict the
 collection of Personal Data.  The laws addressing collection and
 future handling of Personal Information will vary from place to
 place; advertisers must take steps to gain an understanding of those
 Prudence should be the advertiser's guide.  If an advertiser is
 unsure as to the applicability or legality of an action, both in the
 jurisdiction of the advertiser as well as that of the recipients, the
 action must be avoided entirely.  Advertisers would be well advised
 to realize that, if they engage in spamming, they will inevitably
 break the laws of some jurisdiction, somewhere.

5. Targeting the Audience

 Advertisers have something to sell.  It may be a product, service, or
 other tangible or intangible item.  And, of course, the advertiser
 needs to get the word out to the market - quickly.  After all,
 neither the seller or the advertiser are making sales and earning
 profits if nobody is buying the product.  However, before advertisers
 can advertise the product, they must first determine to WHOM the
 product will be advertised.
 There are considerations in determining the answer to that question.
 This text has already addressed how the sending of Unsolicited
 Commercial E-Mail ("spam") can generate a number of negative effects.
 In addition, numerous surveys cited herein show that the vast
 majority of publicly-available mailing lists and Netnews groups
 similarly abhor spam.  The advertiser's first step should always be
 to determine which avenues are appropriate for advertising.  Then,
 advertisers must determine which avenues are appropriate for EACH
 SPECIFIC ADVERTISEMENT.  Advertisers are faced with the task of
 determining which Netnews groups accept ads, then of those, which
 groups are of a topic to which the proposed advertising is relevant.
 Similarly, the same work should be done for mailing lists.
 Advertisers should take some level of comfort in the fact that there
 *are* Netnews groups and mailing lists which welcome advertising -
 finding them is a worthwhile investment of the advertiser's time and
 For assistance in locating such advertising-friendly websites,
 mailing lists, and Netnews groups, advertisers can consult existing
 ethical and responsible Internet advertisers.  Alternatively, any
 low- or no-cost research resource or search engine can be employed to

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 find those groups and lists.  BUT UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD AN
 other reasons which will be addressed further into this document, but
 to engage in such activity opens the advertiser to the liabilities
 and negative ramifications previously stated.  Such negative
 conditions cause increased costs to the seller/advertiser, when the
 risks (loss of connectivity, defense against litigation, avoiding
 discovery, etc...) are factored into an advertiser's overall
 operation.  In short, it is in the best interests of the seller and
 advertiser to ensure that the proper audience is targeted, prior to
 any further steps.

6. Reaching the audience

 Once the prospective advertiser has determined a target market for a
 specific advertisement, a manner of advertising must be selected.
 While these are too numerous to mention, this document concerns
 itself only with those that apply to the ethical use of Internet
 resources.  Of those, the pertinent ones to be examined (in order of
 desirability and effectiveness) are:
  1. A dedicated website or web page
  1. Advertisement placed on a "shared" advertising site

(placing an advertisement on an established web-page

          which caters to people that indicate a potential
          for interest in (a) specific type(s) of product(s).
          Such advertisements can take the form of text, links,
          "Click-Through Banners", or other.
  1. Netnews posting
  1. Targeted E-Mail messages
 Note that any manner of blind broadcast (distribution-based)
 advertising which does not involve the targeting of the recipients is
 not considered responsible.
 Once the advertiser has determined the medium for reaching their
 target audience, there are key points to be considered, each being
 specific to the medium of advertisement:
 A.   Dedicated website or web page
      Advertisers have the option of creating a dedicated website, or
      a page within another site for their advertisement.  If, from a
      technical standpoint, an advertiser is unsure of the process for

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 8] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

      creating such a website, there are numerous resources available
      to provide assistance.  From no-cost avenues such as
      instructional websites; to low-cost resources such as books,
      videotapes or classes; to full-service businesses and
      consultants who can advise advertisers throughout the entire
      scope of the website/web page design, implementation and hosting
      process (or any part thereof), there is a solution available
      for every type of site and cost-structure.
 B.   "Shared" Advertising website
      Advertisers have the option of placing their advertisements on
      a website operated by a third-party.  For advertisers with an
      immediate need, such sites (also called "Electronic Malls",
      "E-Shops" or other names) have several advantages.  In some
      cases, a shared site can be more cost-efficient than building
      a dedicated website.  Many sites will target a specific market
      (refer to Section 5 of this document).  By using existing
      resources, advertisers can avoid the cost and burden of
      owning their own site.  Many websites will target a specific
      advertisement to a specific audience, thus providing much of
      the research for the prospective advertiser, and providing
      the advertiser the means with which to reach the most receptive
      audience.  Additionally, advertisements from such advertising
      sites can be integrated into a larger context, such as
      supporting free e-mail services, Internet access, or news
      broadcasts.  Such integration can lend a level of credibility
      to an advertising effort that might not exist otherwise.
      Some notes on the use of any type of website for advertising:
      Regardless of what method an advertiser chooses to use for
      for advertising on the Web, there are some specific caveats
      regarding customer interactions:
           First, the advertiser must ensure that their contact
           information - name, phone, e-mail address - are all clear
           and available;
           Second, advertisers should take care in creating forms
           which gather information about customers, as there is
           concern in the United States and other countries about
           gathering information from minors without parental consent.
           There is also concern about grabbing dynamic information
           via persistent state information, such as through the use
           of "cookies" or through data collection software resident
           on the user's computer without their knowledge.

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           Information should only ever be gathered in a voluntary and
           informed fashion, as opposed to the use of cookies, forms,
           or other methods that may be available;
           Third, if advertisers DO gather information about people
           and plan to use it for marketing in ANY way, advertisers
           must be VERY clear to specify their plans as people
           submit their information.
 C.   Netnews and E-Mailing list group postings
      If an advertiser has selected newsgroups as a targeted medium,
      there are critical preliminary determinations to be made.  The
      accepted presumption should be that a Netnews group will not
      welcome spam, although there are newsgroups which are
      advertising-friendly.  However, the only way to determine
      whether a group welcomes a particular type or form of
      advertising is to either:
  1. read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to determine

what is specifically permitted or prohibited on that

               particular group.
  1. ask the group by posting a message which briefly

notes how you intend to advertise your product. Do not

               mention any product details in this message, merely ask
               if the group would object.
  1. if it is a "moderated" newsgroup, send an e-mail to

the group's moderator. Many group moderators will have

               a specific preference for how to deal with advertising,
               through compilation, "digest" formats, or other.
      It is a recommendation that prospective advertisers read the
      groups to which they choose to post for a period before posting.
      Generally, an extended period of reading the messages in the
      group will give the advertiser an indication as to how their
      advertisement will be viewed or accepted on the group in
      However, this period of reading should not be used as a
      substitute for the suggestions above.  Many groups will have
      specific instructions and/or requirements for posting

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 10] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

      advertisements.  Advertisers who fail to meet those
      requirements will be undertaking irresponsible behavior,
      and will be subject to the effects thereof.
 D.   Compiled E-Mail Lists
      It bears repeating at this point: Let the Seller Beware.  The
      material discussed in Section 4 of this document is
      particularly relevant in the consideration of E-mail, and
      the use of compiled lists of e-mail addresses for advertising.
      Advertisers should understand that they bear the responsibility
      for ensuring the proper targeting of their recipients; the
      proper display of their or their seller's identities; and the
      use of resources or systems only with the express permission
      of the owners of those systems.
      When faced with the task of collecting and compiling recipient
      information, one option that is frequently presented is that of
      pre-compiled mailing lists.  Most often, these are advertised
      using the very method which is irresponsible, that of
      Unsolicited E-Mail.  There are numerous reasons why these lists
      should not be used.
      Many suppliers create mailing lists from addresses which they
      have gathered in mildly to extremely unethical ways.  Many of
      these list-makers rely on grabbing volumes of addresses without
      checking their legitimacy.  In other words, they send out
      software robots to grab addresses they find in News or Mailing
      List archives which may be many years old!  In addition, many
      list owners create addresses using a "dictionary", creating
      vast numbers of invalid addresses which are then sold to
      unsuspecting purchasers.  People change jobs, change ISPs,
      and change everything about themselves over time; trusting
      a third party for a mailing list is just not wise.
      It is known that some mailing list providers have created
      mailing lists from E-mail addresses of people who have asked to
      be REMOVED from their mailing lists.  They then sell these lists
      to other advertisers who think they're getting a list of people
      who will welcome the unsolicited information.
      Regardless of the source, however, advertisers and sellers bear
      the responsibility for maintenance of their lists.  Purchasing a
      list from a third-party shifts the maintenance costs of that
      list onto the advertiser who uses it.  Needless to say, this is
      only economical for mailing list vendor.

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      Given these conditions, all evidence points to the fact that
      the greatest level of control of an advertiser's own success
      and liability rests with the advertiser themselves.  This being
      the case, advertisers are faced with the task of compiling their
      own lists of willing recipients of Advertising-related E-Mail
      messages.  As discussed previously, those leads which are
      generated by the advertiser are the most likely to have an
      interest in the advertisement, so they are also the least likely
      to protest the receipt of such advertisements via E-Mail.  It
      is this circumstance that makes the use of an "Opt-In" list
      (refer to Section 7 of this text) to be perhaps the most
      successful method of advertising distribution on the Internet.
      It must be noted here - for the same reasons that apply above,
      if an advertiser has compiled their own mailing list for their
      purposes, that list must NEVER be sold to another party.  Just
      as it is considered unethical to purchase a third-party mailing
      list, it is equally so to be the provider of that list.
      Customers who wish to receive information about your product
      are not likely to respond favorably when contacted in an
      unsolicited fashion by your business associates; protect your
      reputation from the backlash of bad-faith that can occur in
      such cases.

7. Opt-In Mailing Lists

 This document has laid out the basic facts of Internet Marketing; the
 advertiser bears the responsibility of their actions; there will
 always be recipients of that advertising who do not wish to receive
 it; there are reactions to every responsible and irresponsible act.
 Given these considerations, and taking into account the central
 message of this document; that Internet Advertising *can* be a
 successful venture for everyone involved; there remains a key tool
 for the Internet advertiser to harness.  Opt-In mailing lists provide
 the prospective Internet advertiser with the control they need over
 the list of their prospective target audience (validity of e-mail
 address; applicability to the intended product; willingness to
 receive advertising via e-mail).
 Opt-In mailing lists are consistently shown to be more effective in
 starting and maintaining customer relationships than any other type
 of Internet advertising; studies have shown Opt-In mailing to be
 Eighteen (18%) Percent more effective than Banner advertising [10],
 which has a response rate of only 0.65%.  It is so successful because
 the recipients of those E-mailed advertisements made a specific
 effort to receive them, thus indicating their interest in receiving
 information about products which the recipient felt were of interest
 to themselves.

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 Advertisers wishing to employ Opt-In mailing lists in their
 advertising can turn to several resources for assistance.  If an
 advertiser operates their own website or web page, they already
 possess the most important facet, a web presence with which to invite
 participation in the Opt-In list.  If the advertiser chooses to use a
 shared website for their product, they can also utilize an Opt-In
 data gathering mechanism.  There are numerous forms and technologies
 that can be employed to build an Opt-In list - this document will not
 address them individually.  Rather, the purpose of this section is to
 provide the advertiser with information which, when used, will help
 protect the advertiser, and make the advertising experience a
 successful one.
 A. Privacy
    As stated previously, advertisers should take care in
    gathering information from Opt-In participants.  First and
    foremost, the person providing the information must be aware
    that they are doing so.  By taking these preliminary steps,
    an advertiser decreases the risk of having any messages
    interpreted as spam.  If, in submitting information for any
    purpose, the advertiser intends to use the submitted or
    inferred data for any mailings, there should be clear
    language indicating so.  Furthermore, persons submitting data
    must be given the choice to "Opt-Out"; that is, to choose to
    submit the data but NOT receive any advertisements.  A safe
    course of action is for the advertiser to configure their
    data-gathering so "Opt-Out" is the default; that is, to
    ensure that any members of the list have made a concerted
    effort to get onto said list.  In nearly all cases, merely
    having a "check-box" available with the caption
       "Please send me E-Mail advertisements or
        announcements about your products."
    is sufficient.
    It is crucial that advertisers be aware that different
    jurisdictions deal with the collection of personal data
    differently - the burden of verification of these laws rests
    on the advertisers.  For additional information on privacy,
    refer to Appendix B of this document.
 B. Integrity
    When maintaining a list where names can be submitted via some
    type of public or semi-public resource, such as a website,
    advertisers should take steps to verify every subscription to

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 13] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

    that list.  There are key pieces of data that can be used to
    verify the integrity of a particular subscription request,
    but the only person who can attest to the genuineness of the
    actual act of subscribing is the owner of the E-Mail address
    which has been submitted.
    To protect themselves from the risk of inadvertently spamming
    an unsuspecting recipient, advertisers should immediately
    confirm any submission.  In doing so, advertisers can satisfy
    all requirements for responsible confirmation of a subscription
    request.  In addition, if a person's E-Mail address has been
    submitted to a list without the knowledge or permission of the
    owner of that E-mail address, immediate notification of that,
    and the receipt of supporting data, enables the owner of that
    account to act accordingly to protect their account from future
    When generating confirmations, the following information must
    be provided to the subscriber:
  1. the E-Mail address subscribed
  1. the manner in which it was subscribed

(website or mailing list address)

  1. the Date and Time of the subscription request

(via NTP, for uniformity in future reference)

  1. the IP Address of the host which submitted

the request

  1. the full headers of the subscription request

(where applicable, such as mailing lists)

  1. the Name, website address, and contact E-Mail

address of the advertiser

  1. instructions to the recipient as to how to

permanently remove themselves from the list

    In addition, a well-represented business will make an effort
    to communicate this material in a way which the average
    recipient can understand and relate to, such as the following
    example [11]:

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 14] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

  1. - - - - - C O N F I R M A T I O N - - - - - - - - - - - -
      Thank you for your interest in Widget Sales!
      This is confirmation of your subscription request for the
      Widget Sales E-mail list.
      You are currently subscribed with this address:
      Your request was received via our website at
      If you did not submit this request, someone may have
      submitted it for you, or may be pretending to be you.
      If you wish to be removed from this list, Reply to this
      message with the word UNSUBSCRIBE as the body of the
      If you feel you were added to the list without your
      permission, the information below should be forwarded to
      your ISP's Administrative staff for follow-up, with an
      explanation of your concern.
      As stated in RFC-2635, "you can do this by sending mail
      to "Postmaster@your-site.example".  Your postmaster should be
      an expert at reading mail headers and will be able to tell if
      the originating address is forged.  He or she may be able to
      pinpoint the real culprit and help close down the site.  If
      your postmaster wants to know about unsolicited mail, be sure
      s/he gets a copy, including headers.  You will need to find
      out the local policy and comply."
      Widget Sales, Inc.            |
      Responsible Internet          |  
      Marketing - Made Easy!        |
      Submission Information:
       Request received for foo@bar.example from at
          06:41:55:13(GMT) on 07.03.1999 via

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 15] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

      E-Mail headers follow:
       Received: from
          ([]) by
          (FooBarMail v01.01.01.01 111-111) with SMTP
          id <>
          for <>; Sat, 3 July 1999 01:41:55 +0000
       From: Customer <foo@bar.example>
       Subject: Submission Request
       Date: Sat, 03 July 1999 01:41:55 -0400
       Organization: Zem & Zem Bedding Company, Inc.
       Reply-To: foo@bar.example
       Message-ID: <k???12qelNxp7Q=??3dbgLHWTLv@4??.bar.example>
       X-Mailer: FooBarMail HTTPMailer Extension 1.0.532
       MIME-Version: 1.0
       Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
       Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
 C. Protection
    Advertisers should be advised of certain measures they can take
    to protect themselves.  Frequently, and especially when the
    traffic on a particular mailing list is low, a subscriber may
    forget that they had requested membership on that list.  When a
    new message is sent and subsequently received, said recipient
    may lodge a complaint of spamming.  If this situation is
    multiplied by several recipients, the advertiser and/or seller
    risks losing their Internet access, even if they have acted
    responsibly throughout the process.
    For this reason, advertisers should keep an archive of all
    submission requests which are received.  This archive should be
    kept as diligently as the advertiser's operational data, and
    should be similarly safeguarded.  Having such requests available
    will protect the advertisers from any reports of spamming,
    whether they are malicious, or the result of a genuine
    misunderstanding.  For reasons that should be obvious, those
    messages should remain archived for a period that lasts AT
    LEAST as long as the list remains active.  While this is not
    necessarily a requirement for responsible behavior, it is a
    measure of safety for the responsible advertiser.

8. Irresponsible Behavior

 Shotgunning a message doesn't really work in any medium, but it is
 much easier to do with the Internet than with paper mail or telephone
 solicitations.  The steps which have been provided in this paper will

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 16] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 assist the advertiser in creating a favorable environment for their
 work; in ensuring that they maintain a responsible presence on the
 Internet; and in targeting the types of customer and the methods to
 be used to reach those potential customers.  Given these steps, there
 are some actions which should be avoided as the basis for any
 Responsible advertising presence on the Internet.
 DON'T advertise money-making opportunities that can, in any way, be
 construed as Pyramid or Ponzi schemes.  (For information regarding
 those types of "investments", refer to Appendix A.1 of this
 DON'T forge E-mail headers to make it look as if the messages
 originate from anywhere other than where they really originate.  Many
 domain owners have won litigation against advertisers who have used
 their domain name in an effort to conceal their true identity.
 DON'T send out any sort of bogus message to "cover" the intended
 activity, which is advertising.  In other words, don't pretend that a
 personal message from the advertiser to someone else was sent to a
 mailing list by mistake so that the body of that message can be used
 to advertise, as in this example:
    Dear Tony - had a great time at lunch yesterday.  Per your
    request, here's the information on the latest widget I
    promised [...].
 DON'T use overly-general statements such as "Our research shows
 you're interested in our product."  Most recipients know this is
 usually a bogus claim.  Use of it can rob any legitimacy that the
 advertisement may hold.
 DON'T create mailing lists from third party sources (see Section 6;
 Part D of this document, above).
 Enough negativity!  Now for some helpful suggestions.

9. Responsible Behavior

 DO create a lively signature which tells the minimum about the
 product/service.  But keep it to 4 lines total (four lines is the
 maximum recommended length for signatures).

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 17] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 DO participate in mailing lists and newsgroups which discuss topics
 related to the particular product/service.  Advertisers will find
 people of a similar interest there and many potential customers.  So
 long as an advertiser isn't offensive in their interactions with
 these groups they can find their participation quite rewarding.
 DO ask people if they want to be part of any mailing list that is
 created.  Advertisers must be clear about their intentions of how
 they plan to use the list and any other information that is
 DO tell people how list data has been gathered.  If recipients are
 signed up from a web page, make sure the prospective recipient is
 aware that they will be getting mail.  Many web pages have getting
 mail selected as default.  Our recommendation is that the default be
 that recipients do NOT wish to receive mailings - even if the
 prospective recipients find an advertiser's site of interest.
 DO respect the privacy of customers.  Keep a mailing list private.
 For an advertiser to sell a mailing list is not responsible or
 ethical.  In addition, if offering any type of online transactions,
 advertisers should take care to encrypt any sensitive information The
 addresses of the list members should never be viewable by the list
 recipients, to protect your list members' privacy.
 DO take steps to safeguard all of the personal information that is
 being taken from customers, such as Credit Card or other Payment
 information.  Provide honest information regarding the methods being
 used to protect the customer's data.
 DO let recipients know how to remove themselves from a mailing list.
 Advertisers should make this as easy as possible, and place the
 instructions in every message sent.
 DO let people know for what purpose any data is being collected.
 Advertisers must ensure that their plans regarding data collection
 are legal.
 Advertisers and Sellers can check with the web site of the Better
 Business Bureau, which operates in the United States and Canada.
 ( This organization has several programs and services
 which can help advertisers in those countries, and has other
 resources which will benefit advertisers of any nationality.
 "Advertisers should advertise responsibly the better mousetrap they
 have built, and the world will beat a path to their E-mail address."

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 18] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

10. Security Considerations

 This memo offers suggestions for responsible advertising techniques
 that can be used via the Internet.  It does not raise or address
 security issues, but special attention should be paid to the section
 on "Privacy".  While not strictly a network security consideration,
 privacy considerations can have legal ramifications that deserve
 special attention.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 19] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001


 Most readers of this document are probably aware as to why "Pyramid"
 or "Ponzi" schemes are fraudulent, and in most places, criminal.
 Appendix "A" describes how these schemes work and some of the risks
 inherent in their operation and participation.
 For a topical review of Privacy law across multiple jurisdictions,
 including several sovereign nations, Appendix "B" provides some
 resources for advertisers or other interested parties.

A.1 The classic Pyramid

 In the classic Pyramid scheme, there is a list of a few people.  A
 participant sends money to one or all of them, and then shifts that
 person off the list and adds their own name.  The participant then
 sends the same message to N people....
 The idea is that when a recipient's name gets to the special place on
 the list (usually at the "top" of the pyramid), they will get lots of
 money.  The problem is that this only works for everyone if there are
 an infinite number of people available.
 As an example, examine a message with a list of four people where
 each participant sends US$5.00 to each; removes the first name, and
 adds their own name at the bottom.  There may also be some content
 encouraging the participants to send "reports" to people who submit
 money.  Presume the rules encourage the participants to send out lots
 of copies until they each get ten direct responses, 100 second level
 responses, etc., and claim there is a guarantee that the participants
 will earn lots of money fast if they follow the procedure.
 First, some person or group has to have started this.  When they did,
 they were able to specify all four names so it was probably four
 people working together to split any profits they might get from
 being the top of the pyramid (or maybe they sent out four versions of
 the original letter with their name order rotated).  In some cases,
 all names on the list have been proven to be the same person,
 operating under assumed business names!
 While the letters that accompany these things usually have all kinds
 of language about following the instructions exactly, the most
 rational thing for a dishonest participant to do if they decided to
 participate in such a thing would be to;

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 20] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

      (1) send no money to anyone else; and
      (2) find three other people and replace all the names on
          the list.
 But, presume that not just this participant, but everyone who ever
 participates decides to follow the "rules".  To avoid the start-up
 transient, assume that it starts with one name on the list and for
 the next three layers of people, one name gets added and only after
 the list is up to four does any participant start dropping the "top"
 What does this look like after nine levels if everything works
 perfectly? The following table shows, for nine levels, how many
 people have to participate, what each person pays out, gets in, and
    Level         People       Out          In        Net
    1                  1         0     $55,550    $55,550
    2                 10        $5     $55,550    $55,545
    3                100       $10     $55,550    $55,540
    4              1,000       $15     $55,550    $55,535
    5             10,000       $20     $55,550    $55,530
    6            100,000       $20      $5,550     $5,530
    7          1,000,000       $20        $550       $530
    8         10,000,000       $20         $50        $30
    9        100,000,000       $20           0        -20
 So if this scheme ever progressed this far (which is extremely
 unlikely) over 10,000 people would have made the "guaranteed"
 $50,000.  In order to do that, one hundred million people (or over
 ten thousand times as many) are out twenty dollars.  And it can't
 continue because the scheme is running out of people.  Level 10 would
 take one billion people, all of whom have $20 to submit, which
 probably don't exist.  Level 11 would take ten billion, more people
 than exist on the earth.
 Pyramid schemes are _always_ like this.  A few people who start them
 may make money, only because the vast majority lose money.  People
 who participate and expect to make any money, except possibly those
 who start it, are being defrauded; for this reason, such schemes are
 illegal in many countries.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 21] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

A.2 What about Ponzi?

 A Ponzi scheme is very similar to a pyramid except that all of the
 money goes through a single location.  This method of confidence
 fraud is named after Charles Ponzi, a Boston, Massachusetts
 "businessman" who claimed to have discovered a way to earn huge
 returns on money by buying international postal reply coupons and
 redeeming them in postage for more than their cost.  Early
 "investors" in this scheme did get their promised return on
 investment, but with money that later investors were investing.
 Ponzi was actually doing nothing with the money other than deriving
 his own income from it, and paying latter investors' money to earlier
 Notice the similarity to early pyramid participants, who "earn" money
 from the later participants.
 Just as pyramids always collapse, Ponzi schemes always collapse also,
 when the new people and new money run out.  This can have serious
 consequences.  People in Albania died and much of that country's
 savings were squandered when huge Ponzi schemes that "seemed" to be
 partly backed by the government collapsed.

A.3 So all multi-levels are evil?

 No, all multi-level systems are not the same, nor are they all
 If what is moving around is just money and maybe "reports" or the
 like that are very cheap to produce, then almost certainly it is a
 criminal scam.  If there are substantial goods and/or services being
 sold through a networked tier-system at reasonable prices, it is more
 likely to be legitimate.
 If the advertisement says participants can make money "fast", "easy"
 or "guaranteed", be very suspicious.  If it says participants may be
 able to make money by putting in lots of hard work over many months
 but there is no guarantee, then it may be legitimate.  As always, if
 it seems "too good to be true", it probably is.
 If people are paid to recruit "members" or can "buy" a high "level",
 it is almost certainly a criminal scam.  If people are paid only for
 the sale of substantial goods and/or services, it is more likely to
 be legitimate.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 22] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 It may also be worthwhile to look at the history of the organization
 and its founders/leaders.  The longer it has been around, the more
 likely it is to continue being around.  If its founders or leaders
 have a history of fraud or crime, a person should think very
 carefully before being part of it.

B.1 Why Web Privacy?

 Directories, lists or other collection sources of personal data are
 the current informational "gold rush" for Internet Marketers.  In the
 United States and other countries, there is no explicit guarantee of
 personal privacy.  Such a right, under current legislation, stands
 little chance against certain electronic technologies.  Some members
 of the global community have expressed concern regarding perceived
 intrusion into their personal privacy.  Still, the collection and
 sale of such information abounds.
 Self-regulation by businesses utilizing the Internet is the first
 choice of legislators, commercial websites, and Internet aficionados.
 However, the anticipated profit to be made by selling personal data
 and by using these lists for advertisement purposes, often dissuades
 United States Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Minority member of the
 Judiciary Committee of the United States Senate (at the time of the
 writing of this document) states very succinctly why we should
 respect Internet Privacy:
    "Good privacy policies make good business policies.  New
    technologies bring with them new opportunities, both for
    the businesses that develop and market them, and for
    consumers.  It does not do anyone any good for consumers
    to hesitate to use any particular technology because they
    have concerns over privacy.  That is why I believe that
    good privacy policies make good business policies."
 The Center for Democracy and Technology suggests Five Conditions that
 websites should use to be considerate of individual's rights to

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 23] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

  1. Notice of Data Collection
  1. Choice to Opt Out
  1. Access to Data to rectify errors
  1. Adequate Security of Information Database
  1. Access to contact persons representing the data collector
 Notice that the practice of data collection authorization can be
 accomplished using something as simple as an automated response E-
 Mail message.  Such notices should contain easily understood
 information about the collecting party's identity, and instructions
 as to how a customer can remove themselves from the collected
 population.  This will help assure prospective customers that an
 advertiser is a business of integrity.
 Businesses that pursue international trade (do business across
 national boundaries, overseas, etc...) bear the risk of facing legal
 prosecution for personal privacy violations.  The European
 Communities have legislation for the flow of Personal Information.
 If an advertiser is interested in pursuing business interests across
 borders, and particularly if a business intends to solicit and/or
 share Personal Information, the advertiser/seller must be able to
 guarantee the same privacy considerations as a foreign counterpart,
 or as a business operating in the nation in which the advertiser is
 soliciting/performing their business.
 Other countries and their legislation are shown below:
 Germany     -     BundesDatenSchutzGesetz (BDSG)
 France      -     Commision nationale de l'informatique et de
                   libertes (CNIL)
 UK          -     Data Protection Act (DPA)
 Netherlands -     Wet PersoonsRegistraties (WPR)
 Australia   -     Privacy Act of 1998 (OECD DAta Protection
 Canada      -     The Personal Information Protection and
                   Electronic Documents Act

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 24] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001


 [1]  Hambridge, S. and A. Lunde, "DON'T SPEW: A Set of Guidelines for
      Mass Unsolicited Mailings and Postings (spam*)", FYI 35, RFC
      2635, June 1999.
 [2]  Internet Spam / UCE Survey #1., July 24, 1997.
 [3]  ISPs and Spam: the impact of spam on customer retention and
      acquisition. Gartner Group, San Jose, CA. June 14, 1999. Pg. 7.
 [4]  CompuServe Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., No. C2-96-1070 (S.D.
      Ohio Oct. 24, 1996) (temporary restraining order) [WWW],
      preliminary injunction entered, 962 F. Supp. 1015 (S.D. Ohio
      Feb. 3, 1997) [WWW | Lexis | Westlaw], final consent order filed
      (E.D. Pa. May 9, 1997)[WWW].
 [5]  America Online, Inc. v. Cyber Promotions, Inc., No. 96-462 (E.D.
      Va. complaint filed Apr. 8, 1996) [WWW] (subsequently
      consolidated with Cyber Promotions' action filed in E.D. Pa.).
 [6]  Cyber Promotions, Inc. v. America Online, Inc., C.A. No. 96-
      2486, 1996 WL 565818 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 5, 1996) (temporary
      restraining order) [WWW | Westlaw], rev'd (3d Cir. Sept. 20,
      1996), partial summary judgment granted, 948 F. Supp. 436 (E.D.
      Pa. Nov. 4, 1996) (on First Amendment issues) [WWW | Lexis |
      Westlaw], reconsideration denied, 948 F. Supp. 436, 447 (Dec.
      20, 1996) [WWW | Lexis | Westlaw], temporary restraining order
      denied, 948 F. Supp. 456 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 26, 1996) (on antitrust
      claim) [WWW | Lexis | Westlaw], settlement entered (E.D. Pa.
      Feb. 4, 1997) [NEWS.COM report].
 [7]  America Online, Inc. v. Over the Air Equipment, Inc. (E.D. Va.
      complaint filed Oct. 2, 1997) [WWW] [NEWS.COM report],
      preliminary injunction entered (Oct. 31, 1997) [NEWS.COM
      report], settlement order entered (Dec. 18, 1997) [Wired News
 [8]  America Online, Inc. v. Prime Data Worldnet Systems (E.D. Va.
      complaint filed Oct. 17, 1997) [WWW] [NEWS.COM report].
 [9]  Steiner, P.  "New Yorker".  July 5, 1993.  p.61.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 25] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

 [10] Spam slam -- opt-in e-mail gains favor.,4586,2267565,00.html.
      May 28, 1999.
 [11] Eastlake, D., Manros, C. and E. Raymond, "Etymology of 'Foo'",
      RFC 3092, April 2001.
 [12] Parker, Zilker Internet Park, Inc., Parker, Rauch, Texas
      Internet Service Providers Association & EFF-Austin v. C.N.
      Enterprises & Craig Nowak [WWW]. Available:
 [13] Parker, Zilker Internet Park, Inc., Parker, Rauch, Texas
      Internet Service Providers Association & EFF-Austin v. C.N.
      Enterprises & Craig Nowak [WWW]. Available:
 [14] WebSystems v. Cyberpromotions, Inc and Sanford Wallace [WWW].

Authors' Addresses

 Ted Gavin
 Nachman Hays Consulting, Inc.
 822 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 204
 Narberth, PA 19072 USA
 Donald E. Eastlake 3rd
 155 Beaver Street
 Milford, MA 01757
 Sally Hambridge
 Intel Corp
 2200 Mission College Blvd
 Santa Clara, CA 95052

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 26] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

Acknowledgements and Significant Contributors

 JC Dill
 Barbara Jennings
 Sandia National Laboratories
 Albert Lunde
 Northwestern University
 April Marine
 Internet Engines, Inc.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 27] RFC 3098 Advertising Responsibly April 2001

Full Copyright Statement

 Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2001).  All Rights Reserved.
 This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
 others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
 or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
 and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
 kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
 included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
 document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
 the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
 Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
 developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
 copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
 followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than
 The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
 revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.
 This document and the information contained herein is provided on an


 Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
 Internet Society.

Gavin, et al. Informational [Page 28]

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