Opt-In & Opt-Out Policies

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Opt-in and opt-out policies help reduce the amount of spam an email account holder receives.
Opt-in and opt-out policies help reduce the amount of spam an email account holder receives. (Image: scanrail/iStock/Getty Images)

In the business world today, many companies maintain an online presence in the form of a website, a blog or pages on social media sites. Direct marketing to website visitors often takes place through email advertisements after the visitors leave the website. Opt-in and opt-out policies determine who receives these promotional emails.

What the Policies Are

Opt-in and opt-out policies pertain to privacy standards that companies adhere to in marketing when dealing with customer information. In one sense, an opt-in policy can be thought of as a permission slip to advertise. For example, companies that offer website visitors an opt-in policy typically require the consumer to take some action, such as filling out a form and submitting contact information directly to the company. In some instances, the company then requires the consumer to take further action by clicking a link in an email to verify that sending promotional material to a particular email address is permissible.

Benefits of Opting In

The business benefits from opt-in email marketing by soliciting sales from consumers who have already shown an interest in the company's products or services by requesting more information. Consumers benefit by receiving notification of special deals.

Opt-out Process

A company's privacy policy may permit a consumer to opt out of future emails at the consumer's discretion. For example, after a consumer permits a company to solicit her business through email marketing, each future email may contain a link to opt out. However, some companies request that the consumer phone or send a request via postal mail to be removed from a marketing list. Under federal regulations, an email reply or completing an opt-out form on a website is all that is necessary from the consumer. Once the consumer contacts the business, the business then has 10 days to stop sending commercial emails.

General Standards

Web privacy standards in the United States require that website visitors have an option of what information a business may request through commercial email. In addition, many websites gather data from visitors by using cookies -- computer files that contain information about visitor usage of the site. How much information is retained through cookies and how that information is used can often be controlled by the user through the company's opt-in and opt-out policies. An individual concerned about the sharing of personal data should check the company's privacy policy for pertinent information.

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