February 19, 2014
OPEN LETTER TO CISION:
About six years ago, my personal email address was added to your database of media contacts without my
knowledge or consent. I have been battling SPAM ever since - at times, up to 40 emails per day. Over the years, I
have gone round with your staff trying to get this resolved. In addition to disseminating my PERSONAL email
address, instead of the one I used for business, without my permission, I was added as a contact for talk radio in
New York - a job I've never had. Benefit to your clients - none.
I am now out of the database, but the proverbial toothpaste is out the tube. I still get SPAM emails from your clients
at a rate that is increasing yet again. Funny thing happens when lists are generated. If you delete my name from your
database, it doesn't magically erase itself from the lists your clients are using. I finally relented and started using that
email for business and got another private one.
After six years of this nonsense, I finally decided I'm entitled to see just how my personal information, and that of my
friends in media, was being stored and forked over to anyone willing to pay for it. Some of us have really good
reasons for needing to protect our contact information. Does Cision have proper safeguards in place to ensure that
the person viewing the information has honest intentions? I had to know just how much of me and my friends Cision
was willing to expose for a few bucks.
I set up an appointment with a member of your sales team for an online demo of your database today. He knew
nothing about me, but he didn't hesitate to pull up media people at my request. Impressive. You store a lot of
detailed information about people in that database, and I got to see it just by asking over the phone. It looks to me
that the only criteria for being allowed complete access to these people is simply a willingness and ability to pay, and
motives are not considered. There are no safeguards to protect the privacy of the media people in that database.
I asked the salesman where Cision gets all this info. He claimed every single person had been contacted by Cision
and had given their consent to be included. (News to me.) He assured me that if I were a client, I would never be
sending unwanted SPAM from your database.
After nearly an hour, I finally asked him how my contact info got in there without my consent. He didn't have an
answer. He did tell me, though, that it was an honor to be part of your database as an "influencer." Really? I should
be honored that your company took my personal contact info without my permission and sold it? I don't feel honored.
I feel violated. He wasn't happy to learn that he had wasted his sales time with me, so he hung up. I guess he didn't
like feeling used and misled. I can relate.
Many of my friends in media have had similar experiences of being added to Cision's database without their
consent. A simple web search will confirm that. I advise all my friends in media who are fed up with the onslaught of
SPAM to report it by simply forwarding it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Cision to have your name
removed from the database. That won't stop the SPAM, but it will slow it down. Nothing will ever stop it, because
people will continue to use lists for years to come.
If you are a PR person just trying to spread your message, be warned - using a third party to obtain email
addresses does not let you off the hook for violating the CAN SPAM Act of 2003. You don't know if a third party
collected those email addresses legitimately or through illegal harvesting. Cision says they have personally
contacted everyone in their database, and all those people have given consent to be included. I'm living proof that is
not true, and I have many friends in media who have fought the same battle. If you send to an email to an address
that was illegally harvested - even if was done by a third party - you could be fined. YOU. Not the third party. They
didn't send the SPAM, you did. But why should they care? They got your money.
If you want to use Cision, ask them to stand behind their product. Ask them for a written guarantee that the contacts
in their database have consented to let you email them. Ask them to sign a hold-harmless agreement that would
protect you and shift the liability to them if you get sued for sending SPAM to someone in their database. If they are
telling the truth, that should be no problem.
What say you, Cision? Will you make that promise in writing and accept the liability if you give out an email address
that results in a lawsuit? Now's your chance to prove your worth.
UPDATE February 20, 2014
I received a call from a Cision manager who wished to apologize for misinformation I was given from the salesman
the preceding day. He wished to correct the salesman's claim that every person in the database had been
personally contacted and had given consent to be included. The manager stated that either the person had been
contacted or someone in their company had been contacted to verify and give consent on their behalf.
First of all, someone else can give consent on my behalf - without my consent?
Secondly, in my case, I can confirm that I did not ever personally talk to Cision and give them my contact information
and consent, nor did anyone who worked with me. This was my personal email address and not one my co-workers
or employer would have used, anyway.
The manager claimed they control SPAM by limiting the number of emails a client can send. He didn't seem to
understand that this practice has nothing to do with the number of emails received by those of us on the other side. If
100 of their clients send out one email each to me in a day, I get 100 emails.
He also had no real answer to my concerns about safeguarding information about media people stored in their
database. I reminded him I was able to view this information through an online demo with no screening whatsoever
by the salesman. Not all media contacts publish their information online. Some of us like - or need - privacy. I could
have been an angry ex-wife, jilted lover or a crazed stalker. I found it disturbing that I could simply pose as someone
interested in Cision's services and see this information. Do they care about the media people they are exposing, or
are they willing to simply sell it to anyone who asks? The manager fumbled on that question.
Cision sells personal information of real people. They took my personal email address and made it public. They
made money off my name without my knowledge or consent. How they can call themselves "reputable" is beyond me.