More From the DMA: EMChoice

One of the interesting new products that I saw at the DMA show was EMChoice, developed by QuinStreet. Developed internally as a value added service for their clients, QuinStreet is considering marketing the product as a stand-alone, third-party application to other e-mail service providers.

EMChoice is one of a number of products that have been developed as a direct result of the CAN-SPAM legislation. In this case, the legislation requires that a company have a legitimate and working opt-out mechanism. Sounds simple enough, and it is if you are handling all of your e-mail chores internally. But what if you are working with a third-party list broker or ESP?

Take scenario A: I make widgets and I buy a list from a third-party broker that has a list of C-level widget buyers. As the advertiser, I don't actually see the e-mail list. I provide my offer and creative to the broker who sends it out on my behalf.

If someone decides to opt-out of receiving the offer, they are not only opting out of receiving any more offers from that list, they are opting out of receiving any more offers from me, the widget maker. As the widget maker, I'm required to stop sending offers to that e-mail address, no matter what list I use. So if the same person is on another list I buy, and I send an offer to them, I'm potentially in trouble.

Now, the list owner is not going to give me a list of his e-mail addresses for me to check, that would undercut his business. So what do I do? I need some sort of third-party clearing house that can check my suppression list against any list I'm about to buy. In a way, that protects the data integrity of the list owners data and protects me against being non-compliant with the CAN SPAM legislation.

But there is another problem. I also don't want my message delivered to someone who is going to report me to a spam agency and bad mouth my brand. In other words, I don't want to deliver to anyone who is a very vocal anti-e-mail evangelist, or worse -- a spam trap. How can I be sure to stay off those lists if I can't see the data.

This is where EMChoice comes in. EMChoice consists of a client-side encryption technology that sits on the desktop of both the list owner and the advertiser and a server side component that compares the encrypted data. The advertiser runs their suppression list through EMChoice where it gets encrypted in a way that protects it from being seen by either QuinStreet or the list provider.

The list provider runs their list through the EMChoice tool where it gets encrypted, so that it can't be seen by either QuinStreet or the advertiser. The two encrypted files are compared on the server side and then the scrubbed encrypted file is sent back to the list owner where it is decrypted and spits out a clean file.

That is great as far as it goes, but EMChoice also keeps records of known e-mail addresses that no one wants to deliver to and strips those out as well, thus, in theory, protecting you from inadvertently delivering your message to a highly agitated individual with a lot of time on their hands.

EMChoice is just one of many tools being developed that are making e-mail safe again for today's marketer. And more are coming. E-mail is too valuable a tool to give it over to the spammers: EMChoice is another tool in the arsenal.

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