Spam: The Basics of CAN-SPAM and Permission Levels


Spam is when you send an unsolicited email to a whole list of people. It is NOT Spam if you take the time to write a personal, one-to-one email to each recipient and the content is unique for each recipient. According to the Message Anti-Abuse Working Group, the amount of spam email was between 88–92% of email messages sent in the first half of 2010


Passed in 2003 by the U.S. Congress in an attempt to curb unsolicited and offensive email. Relationship mailings (emails that facilitate a transaction or update an existing customer) are generally exempt. CAN-SPAM Prohibits a False, Misleading Header (From and To information, domain name etc. must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email), Prohibits a Deceptive Subject Line and Requires at least one Opt-Out Mechanism.

“Commercial”, by many industry standards, is defined by a combination of the content in the subject line and “above the fold content” in the body of the message. If this content contains a solicitation and it can be determined that the majority of the content is selling something- it is a commercial offer. If the subject line and body content are majority invoicing information, a sales receipt, account information, etc. the offer is considered transnational. Note that an offer or advertisement can be placed in a transnational message so long as it is placed in a non-prominent position. Of course, any firm can email existing clients or anyone who has inquired with offers, etc. It Requires Commercial Email Identified (must include an obvious notice that it is an advertisement or solicitation)


Opt-Out (visitor did not refuse)

OPT-IN (visitor actively chose to receive communication)

Double Opt-In (visitors check the box to receive further communications and are then sent an email asking them to confirm their consent by replying)

Confirmed Opt-In (somewhere between the previous choices…visitor agrees to receive email and is then sent an email confirmation…no reply necessary)