Personal Information and Political Organizations. And Emails.
November 10, 2017 4:21 PM   Subscribe

I got an email from, one of the many Democratic organizations I find myself unable to unsubscribe from. They are offering a free sticker in support of Dreamers - maybe you've seen it! Anyway, I would be most happy to show support for Dreamers and I would like to see the sticker so I clicked knowing full well that donation requests would accompany the free sticker. But am I agreeing to something more than just a free sticker?

So I clicked and had to fill out my address of course because they have to send the sticker somewhere. But then after I fill in my address the button to submit says "SUBMIT SURVEY". Is that just bad wording or would I be possibly agreeing that my personal information be used in some other way? Am I overthinking this? I feel somewhat more paranoid these days. But it is a nice sticker.
posted by Glinn to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The sticker.
posted by Glinn at 4:23 PM on November 10, 2017

I have a feeling this is just the default wording on the web form and they forgot to change it (since the heading "Survey Questions" are actually fields to enter your address. That said, they will almost certainly share (if not sell) your personal information and send you more emails, so if your goal is to avoid that, I would not engage.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:33 PM on November 10, 2017

They are very likely to hand your email over to other political action groups. They aren't likely to hand it to much in the way of advertisers, at least, not in the sense that you'd notice any differences. You aren't likely to have any problems from giving them your physical address; paper mail costs money to send and even if some org sends you a "please donate!" letter, that stops quickly when you don't donate.

I think I had subscribed to MoveOn; I know I had subscribed to the various "elect this blue person" emails; I've unsub'd from almost all of them because I got tired of the constant barrage "EVERYTHING IS AWFUL send money" occasionally interspersed with "WE'RE WINNING AT AMERICANING send money."

"Send survey" is because the internal structure they use for the form is also used for surveys; if they were asking, "what's your opinion on this new bill? Who do you want to see testifying before congress? What's the highest tax bracket you think should apply to businesses?" It'd be clearer that they're taking a survey.

Instead, they're asking, "What's your street address? What's your zip code?" To the software, it's all just surveys.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:09 PM on November 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

"even if some org sends you a "please donate!" letter, that stops quickly when you don't donate."

I have voluminous evidence that this is not a general rule.
posted by floppyroofing at 5:17 PM on November 10, 2017 [22 favorites]

Ha, I just wanted to say I did give them my information in exchange for the sticker, because I liked the sticker and wanted it, even knowing full well they will probably just barrage me with more email and more physical mail as a result. I seem to be unable to unsubscribe entirely from their email and mailings as well. Regarding use of the survey format, I noticed the weird wording too and figured they just repurposed a web form and forgot to update that part of it, as rainbowbrite noted. But I'll be curious to see if anyone else has more specific insight!
posted by limeonaire at 5:47 PM on November 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've worked at advocacy groups before. When a giveaway like this is done, yes, it is expressly to get contact information of new potential members/donors. The cost of purchasing and mailing the sticker to you is less than the value of your contact info and potential financial support. You will almost certainly start getting a firehose of emails from Moveon.

You will have the ability to unsubscribe from the emails, but your contact info will be stored forever and used in voter and demographic research.

They shouldn't be selling your email to other groups (political groups are exempt from CAN-SPAM laws, but being flagged as spam is bad for overall impact). But they may send you email on behalf of other organizations and/or ask you to donate to other political groups.

It's an awesome sticker though, and Moveon does great work!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:43 PM on November 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I do this kind of thing for a different organization as part of my job. Here's what I think happened: in many CRMs (the systems used to make forms/petitions/etc), these kinds of forms are called surveys. So I bet the default text on those buttons is "survey" and they either can't or didn't bother to change it.

As for whether or not you are committing to something else - well, they already have you on their email list. Are you sure they didn't already have your physical address? If you've ever signed a petition through then there's a decent chance they do. In which case they'd already be able to give (or more likely, trade) your info to another group (almost certainly not a for-profit company).

You are not agreeing to anything else here. If you were, there would be language to that effect. Yeah, there are all sorts of shady fly-by-night internet "advocacy organizations" out there but isn't one of them. They likely have a data policy that they adhere to which would require some sort of notice if you were opting into something.

By the way, if you've actually tried to unsubscribe from any legitimate organization's email list and been unsuccessful, try sending them an email or calling the main number. Legitimate organizations do not want people on their lists who don't want to be there! And large enough organization's will be able to remove you very easily.
posted by lunasol at 2:05 AM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

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