You should never opt-in users without their permission

LinkedIn recently made headlines when it decided to automatically opt-in all 120 millions of its users to a new feature that exposes profile information such as names and photos within ads for third parties. All done without any direct notification to its users. As you can image, users were outraged.

Surprisingly, it isn’t uncommon as companies like Facebook have been notorious in the past for opting-in users to new features that affect privacy settings without direct notification. So I was pleasantly surprised when I recently received an email from United Airlines Mileage Plus encouraging me (now there’s a new concept) to update my profile settings to receive future email updates for offers and announcements.  In return I would earn 500 bonus miles.

Screenshot of United Mileage Plus Email Notification

I have to give a lot of credit here to United.  Not only does it let their customers know it respects their privacy, they also provide a nice incentive to get to them to opt-in to their email notifications.

I’m sure everyone has had the unfortunate experience of registering on a website, only to be flooded by unsolicited emails. It happens all the time.  If you’re a company or brand, you should never opt-in users for anything without their explicit permission. By creating simple, yet effective incentives like United, you can approach your users in ways that they are more likely to take action.  Think about that next time you're considering whether or not to automatically add users to your mailing list or update new features that affect privacy settings.