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Friday, 28th September 2012
If you subscribe to a genuine email list and later on you change your mind, it is great to be able to opt back out. In fact, the ability to opt out of electronic emails was made law in Article 13 of the European Union Directive On Privacy And Electronic Communications. If you send unsolicited email without permission and without a prior relationship with the recipient you are breaking the law in the UK and Europe and can be penalised. Great news!
There are similar laws elsewhere - but obviously not everywhere - so people who want to send you spam will hide out somewhere the law doesn't apply and we're still in the same mess we were before the laws were passed.
If you are sending out unsolicited emails or promotional emails, you should be supplying a mechanism that will allow people to simply and permanently unsubscribe. If you are using a mailing list provider they normally do this for you - although you may need to switch this feature on. If you don't supply a mechanism for people to remove themselves from your mailings, you could get into trouble.
Despite all of this, if you receive an email that includes a like to unsubscribe from the list I recommend that you avoid it. Although a genuine email list will supply a link, there are many email scams that rely on you hitting a fake unsubscribe link. Clickling on any link in an email can actually be a bit risky, but if you receive a junk email - the kind that you would want to unsubscribe from - the level of risk is much higher. In some cases, the link simply verifies your email is active before selling on your email address to more advertisers using massive email distribution lists, in other cases it could actually be an attempt to hack your computer or perform a composite attack, for example by sending you to a web page that attempts to attack your computer or showing you a page that asks for personal information before you can be removed from the mailing list (information they will use to try and access your online accounts or email).
So think twice before hitting that unsubscribe link and avoid giving companies permission to email your main email address for marketing or promotional purposes. It is worth setting up a second email account for this kind of activity that you wouldn't mind abandoning if the junk levels get too high!