Almost 80 per cent of Canadian Internet users choose to opt-in to receive e-mail marketing material, according to an Ipsos-Reid survey.

“”News and information was the most popular type of Web site to sign up for (at 54 per cent).

Banking and health related sites were also in the top five,”” says Marcie Sayiner, a senior research manager with Ipsos-Reid in Vancouver. Entertainment (38 per cent) and travel (26 per cent) rounded out the top three.

While 79 per cent agree to receive information, that doesn’t mean they will want it forever. According to the survey, 77 per cent end up unsubscribing. Reasons for cancelling include lack of interest in the information and the frequency of the e-mail. Saynier says it didn’t track to see if users end up subscribing again.

A popular reason for not opting is the fear of being spammed. While privacy legislation is on the horizon from both the federal and provincial governments, 79 per cent of survey respondents (the same percentage of those who opted in for marketing information) said they received spam this past quarter, the same as a year ago.

“”We did expect it to increase a bit, so it’s kind of interesting,”” Saynier says. “”Hopefully that means marketers are getting on board and realizing the importance of doing permission-based e-mails. The frequency is still pretty high; people are still getting about 30 unsolicited e-mails a month.””

“”Everybody needs to be intelligent and aware about their conduct on the Internet,”” says Duncan Card, a lawyer specializing in Internet and technology issues with Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg in Toronto. “”It (privacy abuse) is often exacerbated in the e-business world because of the increased anonymity involved in interaction and transactions.””

Michael Power is a lawyer with Gowling Lafleaur Henderson LLP and also helped draft Bill C-6, Canada’s Personal Protection of Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). He says he has noticed increased interest on the part of companies in privacy legislation, but for the most part it has come from larger organizations. “”I suspect that a lot of small business, a lot of sole proprietors, a lot of small to medium size businesses haven’t quite wrapped their head around what they have to do.””

Power says there is a growing global push to make spamming illegal or restrict how information is sent. About half the United States are weighing such legislation, he says, as is the European Union.

“”There’s nothing in Canada,”” Power says, “”(but) when you’ve got this legislative environment and certainly an activist legislative agenda with respect to the subject of spam, you tend to find organizations responding by being more responsible.””


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