Several weeks ago I noticed the first of what might be a growing trend of adding email address to a mailing list without allowing the user to choose whether to opt-in or opt-out of the list.
The first instance of this I noticed was a flash-based online petition being run by a presidential candidate's campaign in a popular site's BlogAds. I had never noticed a "signable" petition in the BlogAds, and signed it to satisfy my curiosity for how it worked. I presumed that after entering my email address and pressing submit I would be taken to a page to complete a form with my name and be given an opt-in/opt-out for the candidates email list. Surprisingly, that did not happen, and I was just thanked for signing the petition right there in the ad. Not surprisingly, I began receiving emails from this candidate.
Another instance involved a Senator's PAC that was soliciting input addressing global warming. Before submitting the form you were asked to "Please provide the following information to submit your ranking of global warming priorities and so that we can follow up with you on the results of our survey," and required me to give my name, zip code, and email address to complete the form. If you did not provide my email information to this Senator, my ideas about solving global warming apparently were not important enough to be considered.
Most recently, Mary Ann Akers of the Washington Post accused the John Edwards campaign of automatically adding email addresses of anyone using their "send a note to Elizabeth and John" form to their email lists. When I visited the website there was an opt-in to subscribe to the campaigns list, and Ms. Akers doesn't provide a screenshot as proof. But if her accusation is correct, this would be one more hint that a trend might be emerging.
The DMA publishes a free ethics guide for nonprofits and correctly suggests that, "you should provide choices of opting out online." You can check it out here.