our relationships with our vendors – selling contact information from conferences

I spoke at a conference recently. I speak at a lot of conferences. Most conferences give me complimentary registration which I enjoy because then I can see other programs and hobnob with people. Only recently has this become a problem. A recent conference that shall remain nameless apparently gave my registration information [well, email address for certain, not sure about anything else] to their vendors. I know this because I have received ten emails from vendors saying “Good to see you at the conference!” Since I barely work in a public library, I am certain that I did not give these vendors my personal information. Getting extra email only ranks as a minor annoyance to me. I politely email companies back and asked to be taken off of their lists and they mostly comply. However, having to do this nearly a dozen times per conference should this sort of thing become the norm, does not scale.

I would like to make a somewhat open appeal to conference organizers to make the distribution of registrants’ personal information something that is only done if people specifically and affirmatively decide that this is okay. Every business best practice says that you can’t sell or give away people’s personal information without their consent. We are a profession that is big on privacy. I’d like to see us do this right as well. Here is the email that I sent to the conference organizers.

Hi — I spoke at the recent XXLA conference. XXLA is one of my favorite events and I’m always happy to support it and this year’s event was particularly enjoyable. I registered [and received free registration] as part of my agreement to speak. I stopped by the exhibits hall while I was there but did not give anyone my contact information. This is now the tenth email I have received from a XXLA vendor saying some variant of “Good to see you at XXLA” While I reply politely to these emails asking to be taken off of their mailing list I’m concerned that I never opted in to receive them in the first place and assume my registration information was given to vendors without my explicit permission.

I would like to politely request that registration for the conference is not seen as a blanket approval to receive marketing contacts from vendors. I understand that XXLA has to make ends meet, but not allowing people to opt in or opt out from these communications is a bad business practice. Additionally, and this is more my problem than yours, as someone who speaks at multiple conferences yearly, this small problem quickly becomes an out of control problem. I’d like XXLA to reconsider their practice of giving out registrants’ email addresses without giving people an option to opt out. Thanks for your time.

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