You’ve Got (Way Too Much) Mail!

The election is over. The mailings stopped. The lawn signs are (mostly) gone.

But Mark Mathias has a gripe.

The longtime Westporter and active civic volunteer writes:

Running for public office is a noble calling. Serving is rarely easy. Neither is becoming elected.

One of the tools candidates use is email marketing. It’s fast, effective and easy.

If your Inbox is anything like mine, you received a lot of emails from candidates.

Yet I didn’t sign up to receive any of them. So how did they obtain my address?

Mark Mathias

I have a system that lets me track emails. I create a unique email address for everyone I give my email address to. Then, whenever I receive an email, I know the source.

For example, I have given specific emails to the town of Westport for beach passes, taxes and the like. I intend these to be used solely for official town purposes.

Through Freedom of Information requests, the town provides these email lists to anyone who requests them. Candidates for public office are frequent requestors of these email lists, but sitting RTM members and any member of the public can and do make requests.

These lists are then uploaded by people to email services like Constant Contact and MailChimp.

However, doing so violates the Terms of Service for these companies, all of which require email addresses to have explicitly opted in. Here’s a snippet from MailChimp:

And here’s how MailChimp defines Spam:

The key word here is “Unsolicited.” I did not request or give permission for these people to send me email.

Constant Contact has similar rules for “permission-based marketing.” I have not given the senders my permission.

Here’s an example from an email I received from candidate from this week’s election:

Yes, I gave my email address to the Town of Westport for “the town” to use. But giving it to the town did not give anyone else permission to use that information.

I got a similar notification from a sitting RTM member recently.

So what can be done?

First, it is my hope thatall users of email systems will honor the Terms of Service of the provider.+

Second, if you start receiving emails from people for whom you didn’t request, do two things:

  • Unsubscribe, and
  • Report the abuse to the email provider.

PS: How do you track who is providing your email address?

If you’re a Gmail user, you can add a “+” after your name, and some text.

For example, if asks for your email address, type in “” If you get an email from another company, you’ll know that your email was given, lent, sold to or stolen by someone.

(You never know what you’ll learn from “06880.” To keep randomly great info like this coming, please make a tax-deductible contribution by clicking here. Thank you!)

8 responses to “You’ve Got (Way Too Much) Mail!

  1. Elaine Diefenderfer

    Thank you and very helpful.
    Now, I need two days to implement this. 🙂
    Yes, I have way too many items in my inbox.

  2. Thank you. Now do the texts I get because someone in Danbury gave out my phone number (probably at random) to a political party in Danbury. 😵‍💫

  3. While it may be a violation of email service provider’s TOS, these political emails do not appear to violate the major laws which governs spam email.

    From ChatGPT (and verified elsewhere):
    The CAN-SPAM Act, which sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations. It does not, however, apply to political emails. Political email messages, such as those sent by politicians, political parties, or advocacy groups, are exempt from the CAN-SPAM Act.

    This exemption is because political messages are considered a form of free speech, protected under the First Amendment in the United States. The CAN-SPAM Act is focused on commercial emails, which are typically aimed at selling a product or service. In contrast, political emails are generally aimed at soliciting donations, advocating for policy changes, or promoting political candidates or viewpoints, rather than commercial activities.

    Therefore, political emails do not have to follow the same guidelines set out in the CAN-SPAM Act for commercial emails, such as including an unsubscribe link or a physical postal address. However, they are still subject to other laws and regulations concerning political communications.

    • John, you are correct that candidates for public office are exempt from the CAN-SPAM legislation. But users of email distribution systems such as MailChimp and Constant Contact have Terms of Service that require users to have received permission from EVERY person they upload to their system and specifically disallow uploading lists of emails obtained elsewhere.

      Another aspect that I’ve observed is one organization violating their own Privacy Policy by giving their list of email addresses to another person or organization. This year, I started receiving emails sent to an email address I had given to a statewide political organization from a candidate that wasn’t even associated with that political party. That was a violation of the political organization’s Privacy Policy. I’ve twice reached out to the statewide political organization about how this could happen and I’ve not yet received a response.

  4. I dunno, I spend at max 15 seconds a day clicking “Delete.”
    Not a big deal, imho.

    • John, in my experience this only SOMETIMES works. During this election cycle, I received multiple emails from one candidate. I unsubscribed THREE times and continued to receive multiple emails from the same candidate.

      In days past, clicking on the Unsubscribe button actually worked AGAINST you for unscrupulous emailers. By clicking on the Unsubscribe button, the emailers knew there was a real person who received the message, thus increasing the VALUE of your email address as they sold their list to others. Ultimately, clicking the Unsubscribe button resulted in you receiving MORE unwanted emails. This practice SEEMS to not be as prevalent, but clicking the Unsubscribe button doesn’t always turn off the unwanted emails.

  5. This^^^ Unsub requests validate the email address.

    Now I am shocked, I tell you shocked, a politician did not respond to your inquiries. One candidate suggested to me to use the unsub link (I’m looking at you Mr. Bloom)

    It is a shame politicians, especially local ones, don’t think it might annoy voters.

    A vendor’s ToS may not be law, but if you want to send emails, you should be compliant to their rules.

  6. Matt, I don’t get unwanted e-mail, but like I once mentioned, I was “tookered “ one time by a local politician. And may I add, my new coined word has already made its way around town.

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