Best Practices for Purchased Data

Document created by 9588451ecc601f1a2620c0a3338f73ddec06dbf4 on Dec 17, 2014Last modified by Kiersti Esparza on Oct 10, 2019
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At Adobe and Marketo it is a violation of our Email Use Policy to send cold emails to purchased email addresses.

Electronic Communications and Anti-Spam Policy

Prohibition against Unsolicited Email/Spam:
Customers must refrain from directly or indirectly sending, transmitting, distributing, or delivering:

(i) Unsolicited bulk email ("spam" or "spamming”) i.e., emails to persons who have not consented to the receipt of such emails by providing their email address in a manner from which consent to receive email may be reasonably implied.

(ii) Email to an address obtained via Internet harvesting or other surreptitious methods (e.g., scraping, renting, purchased list, co-registration, affiliate marketing, incomplete or old lists; or email appending). Adobe defines email appending as a marketing practice that involves taking known Customer Data (name, address, etc.) and matching it against a third-party vendor’s database to obtain email addresses.

(iii) Email that generates abuse/spam complaints or spam trap hits resulting in IP/Domain blacklisting or other deliverability issues that could have material impact on Adobe or its client’s reputation.

The full text of the policy is here: Adobe Use Policy

Is there ever an acceptable use for purchased data?  Yes.

The Marketo Compliance Team supports the following uses for purchased data:

  • Generate personalized URLs and send to purchased leads by postal mail
  • Use purchased data to fill in additional details about leads who only provide an email address at the time of opt in - this makes for great targeting!
  • When operating in a small market of known leads, purchased data can be useful for research purposes to track information about your target market
  • Purchased leads can be contacted by phone to obtain email permission


The global anti-spam community does not consider permission to be transferable, except in the following circumstances:

  • A company is wholly acquired by a new parent company; emails sent will include the same content from new owners
  • A division of a company - product or brand - is acquired by a new parent company; emails sent will include the same content from new owners


Both parts of the above are key. Personal data alone may not be transferred with permission intact because permission is contextual. Even in the case of an acquisition additional permission is required if the emails will include significantly different content.

To provide an illustration, when "Acme" acquired a home video camera company they acquired permission to continue to email the company's leads about selling home video cameras. That does not mean they have permission to email those people about every other product in "Acme's" portfolio. Email permission was granted to receive emails about home video products, not anything else. "Acme" could email those people and ask them to opt in to their other mailing lists, but acquiring a company does not give the new parent company the right to add the child company's opted-in leads to all their other unrelated mailing lists.

Data vendors may say the leads they sell are "opted-in," but this is not true according to the standards set forth by the global antispam community.  Even if these individuals genuinely wished for the data vendor to sell their email addresses (often demonstrably untrue), they still would not have provided direct permission to the buyer to send them email. Marketo requires that permission be direct to the sender (or that there is an existing business relationship) to send email within our Terms.

Many data companies offer list rental services where the data company sends an initial message, and passes on only the information of recipients who respond to the offer.


Adobe & Marketo are not the only vendors in the marketplace with this philosophy against purchased lists, it is a widely know issue that purchased lists drive delivery issues.

Purchased Lists and ESPs - Word to the Wise

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