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Learn from LinkedIn: Avoiding Anti-Spam Laws in E-mail Marketing

Business Growth Strategies / Business Litigation / Business Productivity/Practices / Sticky Situations / Unexpected Business Risks

If you follow business news, you have probably heard about the challenges to e-mails associated with LinkedIn’s “Add Connections” feature. LinkedIn is a social network for business. In Facebook, adding people to your network is known as “friending”; in LinkedIn, it is known as “adding connections.”

What Did LinkedIn Do?

The complaint against LinkedIn alleged that the company accessed its members’ e-mail accounts to aid users in making connections on the service. During the relevant time period, LinkedIn asked for member permission to access e-mail when the member asked the company to add another user as a connection. LinkedIn thereafter sent out two reminder emails if the connection did not respond to the first.

Throughout the lawsuit, LinkedIn denied that it did anything contrary to the law. However, the court found that while LinkedIn had obtained member permission to the send the first “Add Connection” request, it did not have consent to use the member’s email to send the two reminder emails.

LinkedIn agreed to settle the case for $13 million. It also agreed to update its privacy policy.

What Can I Learn from the LinkedIn Settlement?

The key takeaway from a business perspective is that running afoul of anti-spam laws can be very costly. Business owners should be aware of several strict requirements Federal laws place on commercial e-mail use:

  • No false headers allowed;
  • No misleading subject lines;
  • Advertisements must be labeled as such;
  • E-mails must include a physical address;
  • Opt-out mechanisms must be clearly stated;
  • Unsubscribe requests must be timely honored; and
  • Commercial e-mail advertisers are bound by the activities of their contractors.

State laws often place additional requirements on users of commercial e-mail. Those requirements vary by state.

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