[conspire] Kepler's Bookstore customer e-mails

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Oct 23 16:44:45 PDT 2008

If you're in the Peninsula or South Bay, you almost certainly know
Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.  Here's a letter I'm dropping off, today,
for their management.  

Full ASCII including the example copy of their (most recent) mailing is
at http://linuxmafia.com/~rick/keplers-2008-10-23

						October 23, 2008

Clark Kepler
Kepler's Books and Magazines
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Dear Mr. Kepler:

I can only imagine how tough the market is, right now, for independent
bookstores.  Having been among the store's fans whose family joined (and
remains joined in) Literary Circle, I know Kepler's must do whatever
helps it survive, and must keep its priorities straight.

That having been said, I'd like to alert you and other Kepler's
management about troubling aspects of the e-mails sent by Constant
Contact, Inc. on behalf of Kepler's.  You undoubtedly have more urgent
concerns, but perhaps this one can be added to the stack, for attention

Please have a look at my printout of  the most recent Literary Circle
mail (attached), and note the multi-line URLs ("Web locations").  The
URLs' length is because they're "hashed" to make them
recipient-specific.  I.e., the URL given for Keplers's "upcoming events"
page is made deliberately, distinctively different on each Literary
Circle's e-mail.

You might ask, why are all the URLs made recipient-specific?  Constant
Contact's Web pages
for its E-mail Marketing service explain:

  Learn more about your contacts with eye-opening reports

  Real-time email tracking and reporting lets you know how many emails
  were delivered, which addresses bounced, and why-within minutes of
  sending your email campaign. You also get reports on who opened your
  email, which links generated the most interest, and who clicked on each
  one. This valuable information will help you to determine your contacts'
  interests, the best day and time to send your email campaigns and much
  See who opened your email campaigns, and what they clicked on

  o  How many contacts opted in or opted out and Unsubscribe Comment Box 
     lets you collect comments on why people are opting out 
  o  What percentage of your contacts opened 

  See how your email list is growing and who is opting out
  o  How many contacts opted in or opted out 
  o  How many contacts forwarded emails to a friend 

"...Which links generated the most interest, and who clicked on each
one."  Right.  This industry arose very quietly, mostly in the last
decade, and describes its e-mail services as "metrics", "targeted
interactive marketing", "traffic analysis", "personalized engagement",
"analytics", "customer-centric microcampaigns", "data mining", and so
on.   But more plain-spoken people call it spying.

Constant Contact has no legitimate need to know when and how often I
visited the Kepler's Upcoming Events Web page (and all the other links
mentioned in the mail) nor to whom I forwarded that information - and I
think Kepler's never intended for them to collect (and be in a position
to abuse) that data.

Kepler's has, in fact, always been a strong protector of its customers'
privacy, which is why I'm confident that management has been completely
unaware of this problem.

Anyway, I personally will have no use for the Literary Circle mails as
long as they continue to be bugged, and in the hands of a contractor
obviously undeserving of our trust.  

I apologise for this letter not including a detailed alternative
recommendation, but, generally speaking, any regular arrangement for
sending non-recipient-specific announcement e-mails to a list of
recipient addresses, e.g., via mailing list software, should be fine.
Possibly even Constant Contact, Inc., despite my reservations about the
fundamental ethics of their business segment, might be willing to do so.

Best Regards,

[Snip example e-mail.  Suffice it to say, here's an excerpt:]

Join Kepler's Literary Circle

Check out all of our upcoming events

View our staff recommendations for great books!

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