Jigsaw Blacklisted by Spamhaus

Last week Ken Magill interviewed Jigsaw CEO Jim Fowler, quizzing him on his company's stance on selling lists of email addresses. Jim makes it clear that it's perfectly legal to do so. Jigsaw doesn't deliver the mail, he says. They faciliate the unwanted mail, I say. If somebody does stupid things, they get what they deserve, Jim says.

Yeah, sometimes people who do bad or stupid things do get what they deserve. Sometimes they even end up blacklisted by Spamhaus.

Jigsaw's Spamhaus blacklist entry is short and sweet: "Spam services: selling non-opt-in lists, including .gov addresses."

I guess I'm not surprised. Back in April, Loren McDonald shared with us via Twitter that he was hearing "Kevin Akeroyd, COO Jigsaw discussing using non opt-in emails for prospecting [at a conference, on a panel] --making the it isn't illegal argument -- [and Loren isn't] buying it."

As I've said myself before, "Contacts found on sites like Jigsaw and Zoominfo (and similar services) haven't opted-in to receive emails from you. If you take email addresses obtained from a service like this, and you add them to your list, they're going to report your mail as spam in very high numbers. It's going to get you blocked at ISPs. It's going to cause blacklisting issues."


Is that what Jigsaw was doing here? No, but I do believe from this listing that Spamhaus might feel that enough is enough. Perhaps they're hard pressed to find the legitimate use for selling email list data in this manner. I know I am, having been on the receiving end of B2B spam myself, spammed by people who bought the exact kind of email list data you can buy from a company like Jigsaw.

(Update 9/11/2009 5:00 pm: Laura Atkins talks about the situation over on Word to the Wise, as well.)


  1. The DMA publishes a B2B Guide to Ethical Marketing Best Practices. I am a Jigsaw customer, and they've walked me through how to use their (and other sources) data while following both Can Spam AND the DMA Guide to the letter!

    They promote Ethical, Responsible, and LEGAL email best practices better than any of my other data providers

    This blog post is way off base.

  2. I disagree, but I'd be happy to discuss it with you further. I'm always willing to learn more about other points of view, and I'm even willing to publish a detailed rebuttal from you here on my blog. Feel free to email me, and I'll be happy to give you my phone number if you'd like to discuss it in more detail.

    I suspect the DMA guidelines are published in a vacuum and are likely not to be in sync with the expectations of spam filterers and ISPs. People have tried to tell me in the past that B2B is different, but it is not. The biggest B2B spam filterers (Brightmail, Postini, Barracuda, Messagelabs, Ironport, etc.) all recommend or require opt-in quite specifically and are quick to block in opt-out or purchased scenarios.

    And the fact of the matter is, when you buy a list from Jigsaw, you're buying a list. I didn't consent to have my email address sold by Jigsaw to third parties, and I suspect the same can be said of just about everybody else in their databases. You buy that list, you mail to it, you get reported as a spammer. Because you are spamming.

  3. The DMA has fought consistently since the 1990's to prevent any sort of legislation which would prevent their members from engaging in practices which most everyone would consider "spamming".

    The CAN-SPAM act is a prime example of how the DMA was able to water-down the law.

    As a result MOST of the industry considers the law, and the weak guidelines laid down by the DMA to be impossible low barriers to spamming, and NOT examples of industry best practice.

    The DMA does little to promote best practice as seen from the standpoint of the one party whose opinion actually matters on the internet: the recipient.

  4. KADIGIGURU: Following the DMA's B2B Guide to Ethical Marketing Best Practices is akin to following the Association of Professional Car Thieves Guide on When It's Okay To Drive Someone Else's Car.

    What you do may be legal but it simply is not ethical or responsible to send email marketing to people who haven't indicated that they wish to receive it.

    Don't be surprised if you start having very serious deliverability and/or connectivity problems when you spam people using Jigsaw or any other purchased list.

  5. Hi Al,

    Not sure if I agree on this one. No question that I am not a big fan of viagra ads or strange offers to help launder money from Europe, but receiving unsolicited mail is almost "apple pie" in american history at this point. Whether it is print ads, tv ads, the hospital selling your data when your wife gives birth etc... Trying to capture eyeballs is part of commerce whether you like it or not.

    To be perfectly honest, you might want to dig into what the subscription houses label and sell as true "Opt-In" data. Forgetting to uncheck a box OR checking the box agreeing to receive information and offers from UNKNOWN affiliates is no better (probably worse) than what you are discussing here. Newspapers are classic for this as well. Selling consumers data is and has been part of our fabric for quite some time. I'm certainly not an expert on this subject, but it seems to me that spamhaus should spend their efforts or ridding those that truly are SPAMMING. Receiving an unsolicited email from some F500 firm is hardly threatening our society.

    My 2 cents anyway

  6. DataGeek44: Just because it's a large company and it's not about the size of your courting tackle, doesn't mean it isn't spam.

    It's about consent, not content.

    If you want to expose your message to people who haven't indicated that they're interested in it, use a non-cost-shifting method, such as postal mail, newspaper/web ads, billboards, etc.

  7. @DataGeek44 - the primary difference between the scenario you present (receiving ads and unsolicited mail in your postal box) and spam is this - for someone to send me a piece of junk mail, it costs them money. At the very least they have to have some tangible product or service to sell that they think will recoup their costs of mailing. There is no such control with spam - anyone who wants to send out anything, regardless of how useless the product or service - can do so practically for free.

    I agree with Mike above - if you want to get my "eyeballs" use a method that shows you have at least some faith that your product/service is worth something. If you don't, and instead you send me commercial email I didn't consent to receive - you're a spammer.

  8. I disagree withe the "cost THEM" argument. I live in a large building in New York and the JUNK MAIL piles up by the TON. I mean literal TON. that waste is NOT GREEN and COSTS US ALL!

    I don't want viagra ads in my in box but have you seen the price that Jigsaw charges per record? NO SPAMMER COULD EVER MAKE MONEY PAYING THAT PRICE.

    I am also confused about your concern around Jigsaw or any other B2B marketer they they don't know where you live, how much you make, or charge you to suppress your record.

    Have you looked at the cost to get out of the phone book? $1.95 per month. It could cost me $25 to get out of a book, that kills MILLIONS of trees, THAT I DID NOT ASK TO BE IN.

    AL, focus on the bigger issues please, e-mail is new, and shiny.

    as we move to phone SMS spam, we will long for the good old days of e-mail SPAM that did not cost us Money.

    I don't have SMS coverage on my phone and these unwanted texts cost me .35 each!

  9. I want less postal junk mail, too. Spam is not a substitute or a solution to that problem.

    Nor is email "new and shiny"...LOL.

    Business contact databases aren't good for spammers because the data they sell is too expensive? Hardly. You need to polish your marketing skills. Yes, for *some kinds* of spammers, it may be too expensive. For companies selling business products and willing to pay a high cost per customer acquisition, cost would not be an issue here.


Comments policy: Al is always right. Kidding, mostly. Be polite, and you're welcome to join in, even if it's a differing viewpoint.