Proliferating alongside the digital economy are "the lists" - mailing and telephone lists and profiling databases. Although businesses are responding to the rising tide of privacy concerns by allowing consumers to remove their names from (or "opt-out" of) lists that share personal information, in many cases, it is difficult for consumers to find out how to exercise that choice.
OpenWorks created the junk-mail.org.uk website in response to this need. It is designed to help educate consumers and allow them to take positive steps to address the problem of data collection.
The rationale for the site is that consumers value their privacy and that many more would opt-out of having their personal information shared and sold if it was easier for them to do so. It causes people frustration to have to scour dozens of resources to find information about companies and their policies.
There is a debate over whether opting-out is the best way to protect privacy, but in the meantime it should be as simple as possible for consumers to opt-out.
Non-profit organisations are notorious for having small budgets, but since this particular website addressed a concern close to our hearts, we were prepared to tighten our belts a little -- and the software tools had to be free. Using open-source software isn't just a match for commercial alternatives, in many cases it's a hands-down winner. For this project, there was no contest: it was going to be Linux for the operating system, Apache as the webserver, and MySQL + Php for the database, queries and presentation logic: "LAMP".
The junk-mail.org.uk site has been the subject of a BBC documentary feature, and has generated an enormous amount of interest amongst 'green' companies as well as the consumers for whom it was originally intended. We're very pleased with it - take a look!
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