Friday, October 7, 2011

Failed at "Getting it done right"

Rob Bonta uses SafeUnsubscribe® which reliably removes one's email address from mailing lists.  Pity it doesn't work.

Back in July, I started getting political spam from the campaign of Rob Bonta, who seems to be mayor of another city in my general region. I don't live in that city, and don't know anything about him. He seems to be running for a state seat, and possibly could become my representative, but I am ineligible to participate in politics in this country so I frankly don't pay much attention to his or other campaigns or that level of political boundary.

Except when they are spamming me, in email or robot phone calls. Then I notice.

On July 23 2011, in response to an unsolicited campaign email from Bonta, I used the unsubscribe link to request my email address not be included in any future mailings. I continued to receive emails on Sept 5 and Sept 22.  The most recent email attempted to justify itself: "You're receiving this email because of your relationship with Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta." I neither live, work, vote, nor even visit Alameda. My only relationship with him is that his campaign has started sending me emails, and has so far failed to respect my request to stop.

Beyond the immediate annoyance, the bait-and-switch of the ignored unsubscribe is frustrating. If you are going to publish an unsubscribe link, at least respect it. Sadly, political spam seems to be exempt from the California anti-spam laws.

My annoyance aside, this has also been an amusing example of Bonta's apparent (in)ability to "get it done right".  That seems, after all, to be his tagline. The unsubscribe link said:

"Getting it done right. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta uses SafeUnsubscribe® which reliably removes your email address from our lists."

I have since sent a note to the complaints address listed. I haven't heard back, but also haven't (yet) received any further emails.  Here's hoping. Kudos to the folks at SafeUnsubscribe for publishing this additional communications channel so they can hear about their clients who may be behaving unreasonably.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google and Third Party Cookies

A few web pages I've tried to visit are refusing to load these days. One such is Google's account settings page. The others also seem to touch Google account-related services, eg viewing someone else's public calendar. When I hit such pages, Google courteously offers to help me correct my browser config by enabling 3rd party cookies.

How ... helpful.

Here's the thing: I disable third party cookies quite deliberately, and want them disabled.

Third party cookies are, to me, an invasion of privacy.  With a third party cookie, some schmuck who buys an ad placement in a site I visit can set a cookie in my browser tagged with the advertisers domain.  Then when they buy another ad presented in another site I visit, they can set another cookie. Since both cookies are 'owned' by the advertiser, they can then track my browsing history, at least to the extent of the subset of my browsing where their ads are presented.

I don't want third parties, especially any schmuck who can buy a few ads, to know my browsing history. For an example why, check out the ACLU Pizza Dramatization.

So now I'm kinda stuck if I want to tweak any of my Google account settings. I can't just clear my last hour of browsing history, because my work style means I currently have about 10 browser windows and 40 or 50 tabs open right now, some half of which I've touched in the past 20 minutes. I suppose I could keep a secondary browser on my machine just for pages such as these, set that browser with a relaxed security profile, and clear its cookies after each use.  Seems a pain.

And I can't figure why Google would want third party cookies on their account settings page anyway. I suppose they may have some number of internal domains, but it seems to me as if they are not being careful of their cross-domain cookies.