Do-Not-Contact Registries Proliferating?

By Eric Goldman

There has been a groundswell of action at the state level to implement do-not-contact registries of various kinds. Two of particular note:

1) Don’t-spam-my-kid Registries. Two states (Utah and Michigan) already have laws enabling do-not-spam registries for kids’ email addresses. Now, according to BNA (registration required), six more states are considering hopping on the bandwagon (including Wisconsin)–despite the FTC’s public announcement that it thinks these registries are a bad idea, plus the pending lawsuit against Utah’s registry.

I have yet to see how the implementation authenticates that the registered email address is actually used by a kid. Without that authentication, these registries have the potential to be backdoor across-the-board do-not-email registries. If so, draping the do-not-email registries in the “protect the kids” flag inhibits robust discussion about the real effects of the registry.

2) Don’t-junk-mail-me Registries. At least 3 states (Missouri, New York and Illinois) have introduced laws to create do-not-mail registries analogous to the very popular do-not-call registries. For reasons that I’ve not entirely understood, the delivery of junk mail is lightly-regulated compared to telemarketing and email marketing. Perhaps that is ready to change. In my Coasean Analysis of Marketing paper, I will point out the policy deficiencies of “do-not-contact” registries generally, so I find the possible proliferation of such registries troubling.