Spam mail. No matter how great the mail filters at our jobs, it still breaks through. In addition to the ads for fake Rolex watches or offers to share the profits of some scheme, I’ve been subject to quite a bit of targeted spam from Christian publishers.
Listed against my will
My name made its way onto some list of Christian or Catholic bloggers, not by my wishes. Agencies send me ready-made blog postings (no, I don’t use them), ask if I am interested in interviewing an author, or want other types of publicity. I know these people don’t read my blog, as they offer me products or ideas that are clearly at odds with it – even anti-Catholic postings. Now I’ve discovered how they do it.
Spam email lists made by human hands
In preparation for showing students in my Research Methods class how experimental data is now gathered for pennies per subject via the internet, I signed on to Amazon Mechanical Turk – the site where people pay small sums of money for Turkers (workers) to carry out Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) – things that can’t be automated. There are dozens of jobs paraphrasing short advertising blurbs, characterizing images, and the like.
There, nestled among the HITs, was the task shown above: use Google to fill in the University and email address for Political Science / International Relations faculty. The ad indicates that there are hundreds of these HITs and each asks for multiple addresses. In no time at all, every Political Science faculty member in the country will begin getting notices of speakers, textbooks, political posters, educational videos – and they will make it through the Spam blocker because they are individually addressed.
Not worth a dime
How much are we worth? Less than a nickel a piece – the amount paid for someone to search more than one faculty name and address. My concern that my professional associations are selling their list are over. The next time I’m offered “excellent” videos on racism or ready-made religious content, I’ll know: my identity was scraped onto a list so my eyeballs could be sold, over and over again, to advertisers. If the Spammers are going to do this, I just wish they’d pay the Turkers a decent wage.