No Shoes, No Shirt, No Email Address History, No Service?

An article in today’s daily news called “Why retailers can probably trust consumers with lots of Facebook friends” caught my eye:

Accertify announced today a deal to incorporate into its fraud-screening process data from Rapleaf, a company that has indexed over 600 million e-mail addresses, and tracks such information as how many social network profiles a particular e-mail address is tied to, and how many friends connect to profile pages associated with that address.

That’s useful data because it takes a long time to accumulate a lot of friends on a social network like Facebook and MySpace, and an e-mail address created by a criminal intent on committing fraud is not likely to match the profile of an active, long-term social networker, says Jeff Liesendahl, Accertify’s CEO. When preparing to commit fraud, he says, a criminal typically will create an e-mail address so that any communication from the retailer will come back to him. A newly created e-mail address like that would not have much of a history on social networks, making Rapleaf’s data useful for detecting fraud.

“We consider this a gold mine for fraud prevention,” Liesendahl says.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand fraud prevention. I can see this from the retailers’ side. Not only that, but as an agency, we offer conversion optimization services for e-commerce web sites, and some of the most effective tactics have used behavioral targeting — an area that customer advocacy groups are a little squirmy about, to say the least.

But this goes beyond fraud prevention: customers have used temporary email addresses to keep questionable retailers from spamming them almost as long as e-commerce has existed. Who says I, as a consumer, have to use an email address I can prove has a history?

Surely there’s a better way to address this. One that doesn’t sacrifice customer experience and customer trust along the way? Anyone?

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