Used properly, Internet advertising can be appealing to consumers and cost-effective to advertisers. Consumers who wish to get the most out of Internet advertising can follow some simple guidelines to ensure that they are not being placed unwittingly on mailing lists.
- Provide only the necessary information to conduct online transactions. Some websites ask for name, mailing address, home and work phone numbers, email address, date of birth, etc. Users probably do not need to divulge all this information. In most online forms, “required fields” (those that must be filled out for the form to be accepted) are marked with an asterisk; everything else is optional.
- If users belong to any online lists or frequent any sites where they make purchases, they can check their preferences to see what information is available. About 2001 Yahoo, which offers services such as listserve hosting, upgraded its technology. In so doing, it set all Yahoo customers to a default setting in which they all consented to receiving solicitations by mail, phone, and email. Yahoo did notify its customers and provided instructions on how to change those preferences, but if they belong to other list groups or if they make purchases from a particular site they should periodically check their settings.
- Do not respond to spam. Sending a reply to spam asking to be removed from a list almost never works. Users can contact their Internet service provider to find out if it can help them track down spam; there is also software on the market that can screen some spam.
Some organizations on the Internet provide information about online privacy issues, advertising, legal action, and spam. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org) offers a variety of information and also has links to other information.
Ultimately, dealing with Internet advertising is like dealing with any other type of advertising. Understanding how it works may not eliminate ads, but it will help users know how to minimize their impact.