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E-snap junk mail to cyberdeath

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some people are more annoyed by junk mail than others, but I think we can all agree that it's a waste of paper and postage to send junk mail to someone who's not interested in the product or service being offered.

Well, a new service -- available as an app for the iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone operating systems -- claims it will help you do something about it.

PaperKarma ( http://paperkarma.com ) is used to quickly snap a photo of junk mail with your smartphone. The photo is uploaded to PaperKarma, which will then attempt to figure out who sent it to you and submit a request that your name be taken off that company's mailing list.

According to the PaperKarma website, the average American gets 800 pieces of junk mail per year, and unwanted mail outnumbers wanted mail by 18 to 1.

PaperKarma only works on junk mail that's addressed specifically to you, by name. Senders of junk mail that's addressed to "resident" and delievered to every single stop on a postal route may not have a way to exempt any particular address, and so PaperKarma won't work on those.

You download the app to your phone, and then give it the basic information about your name and address, and phone number (supposedly, some companies require a phone number in order to process removal requests).

When you first use the app, you have the option of logging in through Facebook or creating an account separately. There's not much difference between the two, because even if you log in through Facebook you've still got to enter your basic information after that. It just saves you having to remember a separate password for PaperKarma.

If you log in through Facebook and link PaperKarma to your Facebook account, the app will apparently post to your timeline occasionally (I presume that's in order to announce how many junk mail lists you've escaped, although I don't know this for certain). The feature can be turned off altogether, or you can set the frequency of the Facebook notifications, in the app's settings.

When taking a photo of junk mail to upload, you don't need to photograph your own address -- because they've already got that on file from when you signed up. You just need to photograph something that identifies the sender, such as the return address on an envelope or a company logo on the front of a catalog.

The company then uses a semi-automated process to identify who sent you the junk mail and automatically sends the company an unsubscribe request on your behalf.

You can use the app to check on the status of your uploaded photos at PaperKarma -- meaning whether or not PaperKarma was able to identify the sender. The app doesn't tell you whether the sender is actually going to honor your request.

The service is brand new, and apparently quite popular already, which is causing some delay in processing uploaded photos. It took a couple of days for the test examples I sent in last week to be processed.

But once the company gets over its growing pains, this could be a useful service for consumers and companies alike. After all, legitimate companies want to target their solicitations; they don't want to waste money on printing and postage to send mail to people who have no interest in their product.

Meanwhile, there are a variety of spam filters for unwanted e-mail from strangers, but what about notifications from web sites of which you're a member: you know, "John Doe is now following you on Twitter," or "Jane Jones re-pinned your item on Pinterest," that sort of thing?

If you'd like to cut down on them, head on over to Notification Control ( http://notificationcontrol.com ), a handy site with one-click access to the notification controls for 14 of the most popular web sites. Click on the link for "Facebook," for example, and it takes you directly to the page on Facebook where you can control which e-mail notifications you receive.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is http://lakeneuron.com .

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You can earn money from junk mail. Just sign up at SBKC Consumer Panelist and you can earn points that you use for gift cards for snail junk mail and internet junk mail.

-- Posted by PrpleHze on Wed, Feb 29, 2012, at 5:24 PM

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John I. Carney
Loose Talk / Charge Complete
John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.