AVMA Protects Member Email Addresses

February 15, 2011

Periodically, the AVMA receives feedback from members expressing concern that their email addresses provided to the AVMA may have been used to send unsolicited commercial email. When that happens, the AVMA mounts an investigation into the incidents.

AVMA policy has strict prohibitions against the sharing, renting or selling of email addresses or phone numbers from the association's database. Therefore, the AVMA is not the source of those email addresses.

The preface to the AVMA's policy on email states clearly the reasons for this important restriction.

"The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes that its members and other individuals related to the organization view their email addresses and other identifiers used in emerging electronic media (e.g. instant messaging) as valuable, personal assets. As such, they expect that when that identifier is provided to the Association, it is handled with care and protected from any uses that diminish its owner's perceived value. In addition, the AVMA has a responsibility for maintaining the effectiveness of active electronic communications channels as they may become critical communications links during animal health and/or public health crises in the United States."

After investigating, the AVMA contacts the soliciting companies with members' concerns. In general, companies have informed the AVMA that they obtain data from two sources. Primarily, the companies "scrape" veterinary Web sites (like those of clinics) for email addresses and phone numbers. In addition, the companies purchase lists from companies like Vet Listpro, which offers low cost list downloads from a Website at www.vetlistpro.com. Vet Listpro is owned by a company called GSM Commerce. GSM Commerce sells lists of physicians, loan officers, auto dealers, attorneys and accountants, in addition to veterinarians.

List companies typically list a number of sources for their data, including Yellow Page Directories, Business White Page Directories, subscriptions lists from magazines and newspapers, county courthouse and Secretary of State data, Internet search engines, new business registration and incorporations, Postal service information and business directories.

When investigating member concerns, the association first checks its records for purchase of the Membership Directory. IF the companies purchase the book or were somehow able to obtain an AVMA Member Directory from another source, they are legally prohibited from copying the contents to an electronic database.

If members have evidence that the member information from the Member Directory has been repurposed inappropriately, they should contact Dr. Kevin Dajka directly at the AVMA headquarters in Schaumburg. at (847) 285-6678.

Members are also encouraged to go online to www.avma.org to review and update their member record, including their mail and email options. While visiting the AVMA website, members can also review and select from a variety of the e-communications that are available in order to ensure the e-mail communication they do receive from the AVMA remains relevant to them.