Survey shows most Americans want a 'Do Not Mail' initiative

December 10, 2012, University of California - Berkeley

(—A new Privacy and Advertising Mail survey by UC Berkeley School of Law finds that a very large majority of Americans, across all ideologies, age groups, and income levels support a Do Not Mail initiative. The national data, released today by the law school's Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT), shows that an overwhelming 81 percent of respondents support the creation of a service similar to the popular Do Not Call registry.

"Our survey is in line with consumer polls conducted over the last four decades that reflect a frustration with advertising ," said co-author Chris Hoofnagle, a Berkeley Law lecturer and director of information privacy programs at BCLT.

Advertising material now comprises more than half of all mail delivered to private homes and businesses. Many Americans not only consider it a nuisance, but also a privacy violation. "Americans may view advertising mail as a privacy issue because of database activities underlying the targeting of mail. They also may dislike the sense of intrusion created when advertising material flows into the home," said co-author Jennifer M. Urban, assistant clinical professor of law.

Despite years of survey research showing broad objection to advertising mail, the United States (USPS) has courted direct marketers. The researchers cite the agency's dire financial needs as a possible impetus for this approach. The Postal Service has lost tens of billions of dollars the last few years, losing about $57 million per day in the last quarter alone.

Privacy concerns have captured the attention of U.S. regulators, leading to the passage of several laws regulating marketing practices, but advertising mail has remained untouched. Although the Direct Marketing Association has operated a self-regulatory opt-out system since 1971, the "Mail Preference Service," it only blocks only about 1 percent of advertising mail.

"The USPS' fiscal challenges have created incentives for the agency that directly contravene recipients' desire to manage advertising mail," said Urban. "The Postal Service has created many innovations to help advertisers increase mail volume, but it's done little to assist Americans manage unwanted advertising mail."

Congress did direct the Postal Service to implement a system to stop pandering, called "prohibitory orders." This could, in theory, be used to address privacy concerns from unwanted mail, as well. But it is paper-based and labor-intensive, requiring the recipient to open and send each rejected mail piece to a specific postal office. It is considered an ineffective and outdated way to limit direct mail, according to the report.

Explore further: Study: Spam more annoying than direct mail

More information: … ?abstract_id=2183417

Related Stories

Reading letters over the net before they arrive

April 5, 2011

Siemens’ Trust-Ebox system automates electronic dispatching of letters to such a degree that postal service companies will be able to provide their customers with digital letters at competitive costs. In addition to ...

Don't scrap junk mail -- research says it works

April 30, 2012

( -- There's no reprieve in sight for Australian letterboxes bombarded with junk mail, with new University of Sydney research showing that junk mail is enormously effective in boosting in-store sales.

E-mail Privacy

May 2, 2007

In a major article examining the strength of legal arguments to protect private e-mail expression, a University of Arkansas law professor concludes that, based on the historical common law, today's Federal Copyright Act does ...

Can the United States postal service survive?

September 21, 2011

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds,” declares the (unofficial) mail carriers’ creed.

Recommended for you

Augmented reality takes 3-D printing to next level

February 20, 2018

Cornell researchers are taking 3-D printing and 3-D modeling to a new level by using augmented reality (AR) to allow designers to design in physical space while a robotic arm rapidly prints the work.

What do you get when you cross an airplane with a submarine?

February 15, 2018

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed the first unmanned, fixed-wing aircraft that is capable of traveling both through the air and under the water – transitioning repeatedly between sky and sea. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2012
The simplest way to reduce junk mail would be to eliminate postage discounts on third class mail.

1 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2012
That would also be a simple way of eliminating the U.S. Postal Service.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 10, 2012
I don't go through my mail for weeks at a time because of the pile of unsolicited crap I have to shred or burn and the massive aggravation it causes.
not rated yet Dec 10, 2012
What amazes me is receiving ads from companies I haven't used in decades. "Your subscription has expired" Yes, in 1985.
not rated yet Dec 10, 2012
That would also be a simple way of eliminating the U.S. Postal Service.

It's kind of true. If they didn't get all the postage income from the Junk Mail they'd be forced to raise rates on everything from stamps to packages by a significant amount most likely.
not rated yet Dec 10, 2012
Guess what, I would not mind to pay 10 times more for the postage on a one postcard that I send in a year, if I would be freed from spending 5-10 min every day going through a pile of junk they send into the mail-box.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.