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Is your Email Address Being Shared? Check the Privacy Policy

No one likes when their email address is shared without their knowledge, but it happens more than you might expect. Worst of all, most times, you’ve agreed to it.

Wait, what?

On nearly every website footer, you can find a privacy policy, a company’s legal stance on what they do with your data when you make a purchase, sign up for their email address, post to their website, etc.

Most privacy policies are different because every company is different, but if they are selling/renting/sharing your data, that disclosure should be in there if the company is being up front about it.

Specifically focusing on email, here’s what you can look for to better understand what companies are doing with your information.

Search for ‘third party’ and/or ‘share’

If you do a search on the policy for either ‘third party’ and/or ‘share’, look for something like this:

  • ‘We do not share your information with third parties.’
  • ‘We will never sell, share, or rent your information with third parties.’

Unless they are lying, it can’t get more straightforward than that.

Some exceptions

Even if they don’t sell/share, companies often list a few different ways they have to share data with some third parties: if they are legally required to do so by law; if they use companies like ours to send out emails; and if they get bought and have to transfer the data in a sale.

Unfortunately, they do also have the right to share or sell your data. They just need to tell you about it and then, they leave it up to you to decide what you want to do…if you ever bother to read the policy to begin with.

What you probably don’t want to see

If you see ‘We share data with our affiliates and third parties who offer services we think you might be interested in”, that’s a red flag. Think of the most important person in your life and whether you’d want them deciding what emails you receive from other companies. I’m guessing

not. However, you want someone you’ll never meet deciding who gets to have your email address? No thanks.

Some policies are confusing

When you read a policy that doesn’t make their sharing policy clear, that’s another red flag. I’ve read hundreds of these things and the honest companies make it clear: they either share or they don’t.

Ask them

Most policies will include an email address in which you can ask questions if you’re concerned. If something is unclear, go ahead and ask.

Ultimately, it’s up to you

Even though I review these policies in our vetting process, I find that I still don’t review them when I’m signing up for my personal email account. Most of you reading probably have never read a privacy policy in your life, and that’s understandable. It’s boring and if you want to get email from a company, you’re going to sign up and throw caution to the sending wind.

But if you’re curious about how Company X managed to get your email address if you have never heard of them, you likely opted in for that at some point without even realizing it.

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Whois: Josh Nason

Josh Nason is a Reputation Manager at Oracle Dyn Global Business Unit, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.