We’ll let you unsubscribe, if you tell us everything about yourself

I need to share a story that doesn’t have a happy ending yet.

I am now subscribed

On June 25, I received an email (below) from ZDNet confirming I had subscribed to 2 newsletters.

Greetings from ZDNet

You have successfully changed your newsletter preferences.

You wish to receive the following newsletters by e-mail:

— Downloads Digest
— Tech Update Today

If you want to change your newsletter preferences again, you may do so at our secure Newsletter Management Center, available at the following address:

If you would like to provide us with any feedback, please click here:

If you have any additional questions about your newsletter subscriptions, please visit our FAQ page at:

Thank you for your interest.

The staff at ZDNet Newsletter Operations

I’m glad ZDNet does this, it’s good practice. It let me know that I was signed up for newsletters that I didn’t sign up for. I did what you’d expect, I clicked the link to change my newsletter preferences…

Let me unsubscribe using the link they provided

The link brings you to the “my membership” page (below), which asks for your email address and password. Luckily I remembered my password from a very long time ago, before I unsubscribed from all ZDNet mailings.

[Click for full size]
[Click for full size
As you may have noticed on the page:

  • all personal information fields are required (except address 2)
  • the list of newsletters has 4 pre-selected and doesn’t contain the 2 I allegedly subscribed to
  • the legal text at the bottom of the form grants ZDNet the right to share my information with 3rd parties

[We’ll ignore the lovely “Smart Quotes”, the single quotes/apostrophes and other characters that don’t appear properly (compliments of Microsoft — here’s an article on how to remove Smart Quotes).]

Not a very friendly way of allowing someone to opt-out of future communications.

I’ll send feedback

I’m thinking, “ok, maybe someone didn’t think through the workflow, let me click the Send Feedback link”. This puts me on and FAQ search page.zdnet-send-feedback-kb-full

I click the Submit a Question tab.


There’s nothing on this page to indicate if my question gets posted to the public FAQ I was just searching.

I’m getting frustrated, so I filled out the form, clicked Continue, and…


I’m now required to give more personal information to get off the mailing list. I abandoned the process at this point.

Check the privacy policy and look for other means of contact

I went back and clicked the Privacy Policy link at the bottom of the page and started reading. There were a few points of interest.

In section 1:

Once you register with one of our CNET Networks sites you are no longer anonymous to us.

Sections 5 & 6 state:

5. What are my options?
Users who would rather not provide any of the user data requested by our registration process do not need to register with us. You can still view much of the content and use many of the services offered by our sites without registering.
We also give users the following options:

  1. Opting not to receive our electronic newsletters or those of third parties when registering. Users who opt in may remove themselves from mailing lists at any time through the subscription-management pages or by following the instructions at the end of the e-mail they received from us;
  2. Opting not to provide certain personal information when registering for a site, provided, however, that you may not be able to use some of our products or services without providing us with certain information.

6. How can I review and update my personally identifiable information?
You can review, correct, or change the information collected during registration for any of our sites. The instructions for doing this can be found in our member-services areas. Users may change information at any time and as often as necessary. Users who are experiencing problems with our services or who have questions about how our services work can contact us using e-mail addresses at the bottom of this page.

Not very friendly requiring me to provide more personal information that ZDNet is allowed to share with 3rd parties.

I’ll send an email instead
When I read section 6 I thought, “finally, someone I can email to get this sorted.” There was only one email on the page, privacy@cnet.com. I sent an email and this is the response I received:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:


Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 13): 550 #5.1.0 Address rejected.

Just dump it in the SPAM folder instead

To end this long, drawn out tale, I’ve told my SPAM filter to block these messages since there doesn’t seem to be a way to opt-out without giving ZDNet (and all of CNET) more personal information.

Any recommendations? Anyone with similar experiences? Anyone from ZDNet or CNET want to help me opt-out?