Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Elsevier: bringing us conference SPAM and also empty privacy policies (literally and figuratively)

Just got an announcement for a meeting from Elsevier that I have absolutely no potential connection too.  It is yet another example of Science Conference Spam.  Not really shocking to get it from Elsevier to be honest.  But one part of the email struck me.  This was the end of the message which I post below:


This email has been sent to xxxxxxx from Elsevier B.V., Radarweg 29, 1043 NX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, using 22 Times B.V. technology and platform. This is a one-off email sent to you in the belief that it will be of interest. We will not add your name and email address to our database unless you request further information. If you wish to ensure that you will not receive a future marketing message from us about these products or services, please send a reply message to We respect your privacy and do not rent or sell your personal information to any non-affiliated third parties without your consent, except as may be stated in our privacy policy at: Elsevier privacy policy.

For the 22 Times privacy policy, please visit: 22 Times B.V. privacy policy.

We obtained your name and email address from ISI Thomson Scientific, 3501 Market street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 USA. If you wish to be removed from the ISI Thomson Scientific mailing lists, please click here ISI Thomson Scientific.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. registered office: Radarweg 29, 1043 NX Amsterdam, The Netherlands, under number 33156677, VAT number 002967455B65. All rights reserved.
This is a typical SPAMMY system where you get added to a list without requesting it.  So - want to know what the "22 Times" privacy policy is?  Well if you click the link you get

I can guess what it says but fortunately for those like me that don't read Dutch, Google offers to translate. So I clicked on that offer just to be sure: "Page not found."  Great policy.  Maybe I am supposed to pay to access it?  I note - I have not posted the actual original link in the email because it has what appears to be some tracking information embedded in it.  This I guess is what one could call an empty promise of privacy?

Anyway, next I clicked on the link for the Elsevier Privacy Policy.  This time there is an actual policy there.  Not surprisingly it is not very focused on the people at the other end.  Here it is below, with some highlighting by me

Elsevier Website Privacy Policy

Elsevier is committed to maintaining your confidence and trust with respect to the privacy of the personally identifiable information we collect from you. This privacy policy sets forth our practices regarding collection, use and disclosure of information collected through or in connection with the Elsevier corporate website and all other Elsevier websites that post a link to this privacy policy (each a "Site").

Collection and Registration of Personal Information

We may request users of this Site to provide personal information. The information collected directly from a user may include contact information such as the user's name, e-mail address, and postal address.

In order to access certain content and to make use of the full functionality and advanced personalization features of the Site we ask you to register by completing and submitting a registration form, which may request additional information, such as work setting or principal professional field.

Automatic Collection of Information

This Site automatically collects certain information from your web browser regarding your use of the Site. Examples of information collected automatically from all users include the Internet Protocol ("IP") address used to connect your computer to the Internet; computer and connection information such as browser type and version, operating system, and platform; and full Uniform Resource Locator ("URL") click stream data, including date and time, and content you viewed or searched for on the Site.

This Site also collects information through the use of "cookies" or similar technologies. Cookies are anonymous, unique alphanumeric identifiers sent to your browser from a website's computers and stored on your computer's hard drive. The type of information collected as a result of a cookie being stored on your computer is specific to your computer. "Session" cookies collect information about your use of the Site (e.g., whether you are logged in) and to give you a more personalized browsing experience and help you navigate the Site more efficiently from page to page. These cookies are temporary and are deleted when you close your browser. "Persistent" cookies gather statistical information about repeat usage from your computer or workstation.  In general, cookies do not contain personally identifiable information, but when you furnish your personal information through the Site, this information may be linked to the non-personally identifiable data stored in cookies sent to your browser from the Site.

We and our affiliated group companies and service providers may use cookies, "web beacons" or clear .gifs, or similar technologies to collect and use this information for the purposes of usage analysis (including for the purposes of reporting and paying royalties and license fees to third-party providers, such as authors, societies and other copyright holders and content distributors as well as tracking and analyzing user preferences and trends), delivery and management of our advertising, promotions and surveys, quality control and administering, customizing and improving the Site.

You can prevent your browser from accepting certain cookies, have the browser require your consent before a new cookie is placed in your browser, or block cookies altogether by accessing your browser's privacy preferences menu. However, if you block cookies altogether, you may not be able to register, login to the Site, or make use of the full features and functionality of the Site.

How Personal Information Is Used

We use the personal information that you provide for such purposes as:

Completion and support of the activity for which the information was provided, such as allowing access to or delivery of our products or services, processing or fulfilling an order, or responding to your requests or inquiries;
Website and system administration, such as for the technical support of the Site and its computer system, including processing computer account information, information used in the course of securing and maintaining the Site, and verification of Site activity by the Site or its agents;
Tailoring or customizing content or design of the Site during a single visit to the Site and individualized personalization of the Site on repeat visits;
Research and development to enhance, evaluate and improve the Site and our products and services;
Pseudonymous analysis to create a profile used to determine the habits, interests or other characteristics of users for purposes of research, analysis and anonymous reporting; and
Communicating with you about changes or updates to the Site and our products and services and special offers, promotions or market research surveys.
We may on occasion also match or combine the personal information that you provide with information that we obtain from other sources or that is already in our records, whether collected online or offline or by predecessor or affiliated group companies, for such purposes.

Disclosure of Personal Information to Third Parties

Access to your personal information is restricted to our employees, agents, representatives, service providers, and entities for which we are acting as an agent, licensee or publisher, such as societies, for the purposes set forth above. Your personal information may be used by all of our trading names and affiliated group companies and transferred to other countries for processing. These countries may not have similar data privacy laws, but if we transfer your information in this way, we will take steps to ensure that your information continues to be protected.

We also may share your personal information with our affiliated group companies worldwide and/or with non-affiliated third parties that wish to send you information about their products and services that may be of interest to you. We will not pass your personal information to such third parties if you indicate that you do not wish us to do so.

If this site offers an online content database or learning service ("Service") and you access the Service through an institution-sponsored subscription, your personal information and certain usage data gathered through the Service, such as the number of items you downloaded, any non-subscribed items you accessed, and test scores, may be shared with your institution for the purposes of usage analysis, subscription management, course management, and testing and remediation.  If your institution is a corporation or other business entity, additional usage data, such as the types of records you viewed and the number of searches you ran, also may be shared for the purposes of cost attribution and departmental budgeting.

We will not otherwise disclose any personal information without your consent except under the following circumstances:

in response to subpoenas, court orders, or legal process, or to establish or exercise our rights to defend against legal claims;
if we believe it is necessary to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, safety of person or property, violation of our policies, or as otherwise required by law; and
if Elsevier, this Site, or a related asset or line of business is acquired by, transferred to or merged with another company.

Access and Changes to Your Registration Information and Preferences

Registered users may access their identified contact information and other registration information and correct any discrepancies or update information upon log in at any time. The accuracy of such information is solely the responsibility of the user. No access is given to other data that may have been collected about users.

If you wish to receive alerts, newsletters, special offers or promotions from us, please indicate your preferences when you register or amend your preferences upon log in at any time. If you wish to cease receiving any of this information, amend your preferences either upon log in or by using the "opt-out" or unsubscribe option or other means provided within the communications you receive. We reserve the right to notify you of changes or updates to the Site whenever necessary.

Third-Party Advertisers

We may contract with third-party advertisers or their agents or service providers that post on the Site banner advertisements, which may link to other websites not under our control. or that use cookies, "web beacons" or clear .gifs, or similar technologies to collect and use user data to measure the effectiveness of their ads or deliver relevant marketing messages and advertisements.  Use of these technologies by these third parties is subject to their own privacy policies, which may differ from this privacy policy.  We are not responsible or liable for any content, advertising, products or other materials offered from such third parties.

Retention of Personal Information

We retain the personal information we collect from you for as long as the information is relevant to our business purposes or until you request that we remove the data.

Our Commitment to Data Security

We endeavor to keep your personal information confidential and protected against unauthorized access, loss, misuse or alteration through the use of appropriate administrative, physical and technical safeguards. The personal and demographic information about each user is stored on systems that are subject to appropriate physical and electronic security measures, and we limit employee access to and use of such information.

About This Privacy Policy

The foregoing is the current privacy policy of the Site. We reserve the right to change this policy at any time without notice. Any changes to this policy will be posted on this web page.

This Site may contain links to other websites that are beyond our control.  Other websites to which you link may contain privacy policies that are different from this privacy policy. This privacy policy will not apply to data collected by or provided to other websites.

The websites of certain divisions or business units within the Elsevier group of companies may have privacy policies that are different from this privacy policy.  In such cases, the privacy policy of that website will be posted and will supersede the terms of this policy in the event of a conflict.

Questions, Complaints, and Dispute Resolution

If you have any questions or comments regarding this privacy policy, please contact:

Elsevier Data Protection Officer
Elsevier Limited
The Boulevard
Langford Lane
Oxford OX5 1GB
United Kingdom

If at any time you believe that we have not adhered to this privacy policy or you have a complaint regarding the way your personal information is being handled, please contact the Elsevier Data Protection Officer. Disputes under this privacy policy will be resolved by the Elsevier Data Protection Officer, who will use commercially reasonable efforts to promptly investigate and, if necessary, to correct any problem.

Last revised: 28 May 2010

I don't know about you but I am not feeling too comforted by this policy. For comparison here are some links to privacy policies of other science publishers:

I leave it to others to judge these policies for themselves ... 


  1. I too received one of these emails recently. My response was, "I am not a biologist. Please stop sending me spam." I liked to imagine a human being reading it, though I realize that the chances of that were vanishingly small.

  2. I agree it can be annoying, but why not just delete it and move-on to something else?

  3. I have opted out of Elsevier emails hundred times. They don't care at all. This is the only company I know that behaves in such an unprofessional way.

    Most companies will add you again to their mailing lists after you opted out -- often after a year or so. But Elsevier, they add you to new lists every 2 - 4 weeks it seems. Unbelievable.

  4. How can I go about blocking this email? I get a new one every day and the sender rotates so outlook lets them sneak by into my general inbox.


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