Privacy Tip #1: Subscribing to mailing lists without registering

Many mailing lists are hosted on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups. When you subscribe to such a list, these companies attempt to collect lots of personal information from you and make you agree to some ridiculous and onerous terms. For example, Yahoo hides its terms in a five line text field, but if you scroll down this includes almost 5,000 words of legalese including such gems as

You agree to indemnify and hold Yahoo! and its subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, employees, partners and licensors harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of Content you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Service, your use of the Service, your connection to the Service, your violation of the TOS, or your violation of any rights of another.

In plain English, Yahoo wants to bill you for their own attorney fees. Overall, though Yahoo’s terms are better than most. Still they’re not something a legally sane person wants to agree to. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

To subscribe to a Yahoo Groups mailing list simply send a message from the address you you wish to subscribe to The same trick works for Google groups, except you send the message to

Neither company advertises this feature since they really want to get you to agree to their terms and collect as much personal information from you as possible. However at least for the moment you don’t need to provide it.

25 Responses to “Privacy Tip #1: Subscribing to mailing lists without registering”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    There are some handy features of Y!G you don’t get if you aren’t signed up with them, though, such as the file section of the group.

  2. Peter Privacy Says:

    Indeed, no website should ever require its users to give up any personal information such as Name, Mail, or Website, even if they don’t intend to publish it. Thank god this website doesn’t…

    Hey wait a minute…

  3. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    This site doesn’t require that, as you know since I tend to doubt that Peter Privacy is your real name. Leaving your real name, e-mail address, and URL is completely optional. You’re welcome to do it if you want people to see it, but you don’t have to.

  4. mailing lists Says:

    mailing lists

    I am all for it. I wonder how many folks actually use these. I built a small store that grew into over 100 thousands items. Its crazy how fast it grows!. Anyway. I agree!

  5. Semi Anonymous Says:

    I don’t see the problem with Yahoo’s terms. Why shouldn’t you be legally responsible for your actions? Why should Yahoo pay the costs of your actions?

  6. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:

    Ask your attorneys about indemnification clauses sometime. Tell them you’ve signed a few hundred. Watch their faces turn white.

    The problem with indemnification clauses is that there’s no limit on liability and no requirement that you actually be culpable for any misdoings before becoming liable. What this clause means is that someone can sue Yahoo for a million dollars, and Yahoo can agree to the settlement, then send you the bill for the million dollars plus their attorney’s fees.

    It doesn’t matter whether the suit is baseless. Indemnification makes it much cheaper for a company to settle a nuisance suit than to fight it. Indeed, if they collude with their attornies they can even turn it into a profit center.

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