To Unsubscribe or Not Unsubscribe? That Is The Question

To unsubscribe or not to unsubscribe? There was a story in the news recently about whether it’s a good idea to click the unsubscribe link in any unwanted commercial email or newsletters. While at first glance it may make perfect sense to do so, the story offered up the case of Steve Filipiak which gets you to think twice.

Filipiak got so sick of being spammed that he started clicking the unsubscribe links in every junk message he got. The result?  More spam than ever. Spammers rarely honor those links. Instead, they’re there to let spammers know if they’ve got a live one or not. When they get an unsubscribe request, it tells them that address is active and that the person who owns it reads spam. To spammers and phishers, that’s gold.

But wait! According to CAN-SPAM regulations, all commercial emailers are required to include unsubscribe links or instructions in every message and honor all unsubscribe requests, right? Right, and legit companies do remove people who request it. The problem is spammers have taken that requirement and exploited it for their own gain. CAN-SPAM is meaningless to most hardcore spammers, especially those who don’t operate within the U.S. This could cause problems for legit companies if users start to believe that ALL unsubscribe links are bad. These problems could range from having your company website or Facebook page frequently pounded with “remove me!” demands, or complaints filed against you with your ISP or webhost.

The unsubscribe requirement of CAN-SPAM has been broken by spammers and a new solution is needed. Do you think the unsubscription requirement can be met in a way spammers can’t exploit it? If so, how? Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Rob Nicholson · May 3, 2012

    This is the biggest problem dealing with tech legistlation that is often misguided or misinformed. Why bother to pass a law that effectively only affects companies who are forced to comply with new rules and do nothing to the law breakers who could care less if they violate privacy, the legal system, or common decency?

  2. Samuel Takeon · May 10, 2012

    What regulatory body can we complain to when companies ignore our Unsubscribe request? Those companies need to feel the pain. With all the talk about SPAM, I don’t think the government is really taking it seriously.

    CAN-SPAM can be amended to mandate companies to:
    1. include in their emails a statement that if they have unsubscribed before and they’re still receiving mails, to report to a govt agency regulating email marketing;
    2. ask recipients to click on a link to RENEW their subscription on a yearly basis. If they don’t get a opt-in renewal, that particular recipient should be taken off the mailing list.

  3. Charmaine · November 5, 2013

    I would really like the option to report companies who stubbornly refuse to remove my email address after numerous requests. Yes, I realise there is a spam folder but it still needs sorting and deleting on a daily basis. I don’t see why I have to cancel my email addresses and open new ones, with a lot of bother that follows that decision, just to run away from persistent spammers! Laws and regulations please and somewhere to report such companies where something will actually be done by a real someone who actually cares.

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