Periodically, the AVMA receives messages from members who are concerned that the e-mail addresses they provided to the Association may have been used by commercial firms to send them unsolicited e-mail.
The AVMA does not provide members' e-mail addresses to commercial sources, and when it receives a complaint, it mounts an investigation. AVMA policy has strict prohibitions against the sharing, renting, or selling of e-mail addresses or phone numbers from the Association's database.
According to Dr. Rosemary LoGiudice, director of the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division, "If a mail list (postal mail) is requested, I personally review the exact item to be mailed. The mail list is approved for use only if the material to be mailed conforms exactly to the AVMA mail list policy. Only those addresses that the members have approved to be used are released. At no time are e-mail addresses or phone numbers released with a list request."
The following preface to the AVMA policy on members' e-mail addresses clearly states the reasons for restricting their use.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes that its members and other individuals related to the organization view their e-mail 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.
Unwelcome e-mail solicitation is of concern to the Association not only because it inconveniences members but also because of the potential backlash from members who remove their e-mail addresses from the AVMA database, assuming the Association was the source.
AVMA members are urged to provide and keep current their e-mail addresses and other contact information in the AVMA database. Only in this way can the AVMA ensure members of rapid notification in urgent situations. AVMA member profiles can be easily updated by going to www.avma.org and clicking on "My AVMA" and then "Update your member information."
When a member complains about e-mail solicitation, AVMA records are checked to see whether the company purchased the AVMA Membership Directory & Resource Manual. If the company purchased the manual or obtained it from another source, it is legally prohibited from copying the contents to an electronic database. Members who have evidence that the member data from the directory has been repurposed inappropriately should contact Dr. LoGiudice at (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6678.
The AVMA contacts the soliciting company with the recipient's concerns. In general, companies have informed the AVMA they obtain data from two sources. Primarily, they "scrape" veterinary Web sites such as those of clinics for e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Some also purchase data from Web-based "list" companies that offer low-cost downloads.
List companies typically cite several sources for their data, including Yellow Pages, white page directories, subscription lists from magazines and newspapers, county courthouse and secretary of state data, Internet search engines, new business registrations and incorporations, U.S. Postal Service information, and business directories.
"Communication is the lifeblood of any robust and healthy community like the veterinary profession and the AVMA. Protecting those lines of communication is of paramount concern," Dr. LoGiudice said.