We are having our initial meeting with a client and are listening to his ideas for a new web site. There is nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual stuff. Then it is our turn to ask questions. Same thing here, our standard questions and the usual answers. As we get to the “Contact Us” information the client is adamant about creating the page in a way so that spammers can’t “attack” him. Fair enough. Who likes to receive spam anyways? Not long thereafter we get to the topic of the ordering system. He would like to be able to automatically collect his customer’s email address whenever they place an order so that he can include them in his e-mail campaign. Now that’s interesting. It has “spamming” written all over it.

Let’s take a look at the definition of Electronic Spam (From Wikipedia):
Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, mobile phone messaging spam, and internet forum spam.

So here is a word of caution: when creating an online business make sure that you respect the users’ privacy and are not harvesting email addresses or other information without the consent (and sometimes against the expressed will) of the address owners. If you are planning to collect and use the information from a user you should always disclose your intention and present him/her with a choice to ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’. When sending out e-mails for promotional purposes you should send it only to people who have voiced interest in your product and/or information. As tempting as it is to create a fat spam list it might also backfire.